BY RAMONA LUTHIThe elderly couple that was burnt to death in their East Bank Essequibo home by bandits was on Wednesday laid to rest.Bibi Jamila Munir and her husband, Mohamed Munir were killed on Sunday last when bandits invaded their Lot 17 Good Hope, East Bank Essequibo home and set it on fire during a botched robbery.At the funeral on Wednesday, the atmosphere was both sober and sad, as hundreds turned up to pay their last respects to the couple.Paying tribute to the couple, their granddaughter said the family has suffered a shocking blow and are still trying to come to grips with the death of their loved ones.Relatives and friends pay their last respects to the coupleShe described her grandfather, Mohamed Munir, as the “kindest, most hard-working, most compassionate and gentle person” she has ever known and her grandmother Bibi Jamila Munir, as the “bravest woman in the world.” She added that her grandmother was a driving force in their lives and the lives of everyone in the community.Munirs’ granddaughter noted that her grandparents loved Guyana, and the family is praying that they get the justice they deserve. She also recited a poem during which she broke down in tears.The children of Bibi and Mohamed Munir conveyed gratitude to all those who supported them in this time of their grief, noting that the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG), friends and neighbours played an integral part in assisting the family.Agriculture Minister Noel Holder who was also present at the funeral expressed condolences on behalf of himself and the Government of Guyana to the family.People’s Progressive Party’s Member of Parliament and cousin of the late Bibi Munir, Bibi Shadick, in her tribute said the couple would “forever be remembered by everyone as persons who cared for the community and wanted it to be better than it was.”She added that the fate the Munirs met on Sunday last was one that she cannot accept.‘’We have to stand up for what is right and we have to demand that there should be security for lives and livelihood. What we work for, we should be allowed to use and we should be allowed to give when we want to give and somebody should not come and snatch it from us. Then when they don’t get it, kill us,” she lamented.Shaddick said that her cousin was “not just a farmer” but she was also a “social worker, mother, sister, daughter and everything to everyone that needed her.”Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo who also paid his respect to the couple, conveyed his condolences to the family. He described their departure as being “tragic and horrendous.”Jagdeo relayed that from what he gathered from persons that knew the couple, it seemed as though the lives of these wonderful people epitomised hard work and commitment to cause. He said that Bibi Jamila Munir was an executive member of the Rice Producers Association (RPA) and knew what struggle was.He added that “it is a pity that hard work is not recognised in this country, today since people can come in such a callous manner and try to snatch away one’s fruits of hard work, possibly killing them in the process.”According to Jagdeo, the State should not be held responsible for every criminal act but they should indicate where their sentiments are directed as they should be on the victim’s side and not the perpetrator’s.”We don’t see them (APNU/AFC) go to places where tragedies occur, right across this country, where people are grieving and they are sorrowful and they have their lives knocked out in callous manners. But we see negotiations in the prison with criminals and we heard about how many people were released from prison… We are still asking until today to see the records of those people who were released from prison and until now there is no attempt on the part of the Government to make those records public.”According to reports, at around 23:15h on Sunday, several armed bandits invaded the couple’s premises but they managed to secure themselves in one of the bedrooms.After not being able to gain access to the couple, the angered bandits then doused the house with gasoline and set it alight.
Brother Francis Shelter Respite program manager Robin Dempsey sits in the new respite area. (Hillman/Alaska Public Media)A new community partnership is freeing up hospital resources by proving people without homes a place to heal. Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage is working with the area’s three main hospitals to provide respite care for sick or injured people who are homeless.Listen nowDuring her 26 years as a home health care provider, nurse Deb Seidl has treated people living in homeless camps and out of campers–anywhere she could consistently find them. But she said healing on the streets is hard.“To be sick or to be just not well – maybe it’s an injury – to be on the streets is scary,” Seidl said. “It’s difficult to heal. There’s so much to try to pull together.”Wounds are more easily infected without running water, and overcoming an illness is harder without some place to sleep all day. This causes people to go in and out of the hospital taking up beds and using emergency department services. They need one basic thing.“For healing, housing is often that first prescription,” Seidl said.So a couple of years ago, a team at Providence began looking for a community partner that could provide short-term respite housing for people who are homeless. They found it with Catholic Social Services.“Here we are in the Brother Francis Shelter Medical Respite Area,” BFS Program Director Lisa Caldeira said as she walked into a quiet hallway at the back of the largest emergency shelter in Anchorage. The area has five double occupancy bedrooms, a small common room with large plastic rocking chairs, a kitchen, and an office for a case manager.“It is meant to be a space for peace and calm and healing,” Caldeira explained. Some people stay there for a week, others for months.The pilot respite program started with just two beds in October 2016 then quickly grew to four. Some of the 18 patient-guests who stayed there received in-home health services, like nurses who changed bandages on wounds or physical therapists. Others just had a space to rest while getting over pneumonia or a broken bone.Caldeira said during the pilot phase, Providence donated care to patients, giving the partners time to figure out details like visiting protocols and compliance with Medicare requirements.“We were able to practice and make mistakes and figure out how medical respite could work here at the shelter and for Anchorage,” Caldeira said.Now the respite area is officially open and has space for 10 patient-guests, like Ed McLaughlin. He joined the respite program because of a broken knee.“If it wasn’t for back there,” McLaughlin said, pointing to the respite area, “my only other options would be sprawl out on the floor out here like the general population does that’s staying here, or be out on the streets.”McLaughlin said because he’s had time and space to heal, he may not need surgery. He hoped to be back doing seasonal jobs soon and not returning to the shelter.For Vicki Hannah, the new respite program offers hope. She moved to Anchorage from Seward to seek medical care but can’t afford housing. Without housing, she can’t get the surgery she needs.“The doctors don’t like to do surgery for people who are homeless,” Hannah said, echoing the sentiments of some of the medical providers. “So I was going to have to wait until Alaska Housing put me in a place, but now I might be able to have it done sooner.”But Hannah can’t pre-book a room in the respite area. Patients are connected to the program through the hospitals who contact the shelter and together they see if the program is a good fit. The patient-guests have to be able to care for themselves and be willing to share space. For people who stay longer than a week or so, the case manager will connect them to longer-term services and rapid re-housing. 14 of the 18 patient-guests who participated in the pilot respite program did not return to homelessness.The program is based on similar models at homeless shelters in Washington and California.“Probably doing this has been the highlight of my career,” Seidl said. “Part of it is to be in the room with community leaders and hospital leaders that have a common goal and all have the community and community members’ best interest at heart.”Seidl and others say this is the first time they can remember Providence Hospital, Alaska Regional Hospital and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium collaborating on a project. Construction companies and architects volunteered time to re-do the space at the shelter. They are also opening a clinic at Brother Francis.Seidl said anecdotal evidence shows that emergency department visits are down since starting the program, but they don’t have hard data. However, she has heard one concrete response from participants: “It is so good to feel safe.”