Mahdia tragedy: Chenapau girls laid to rest in moving ceremony

The Patamona Indigenous community of Chenapau, deep in the Pakaraima Mountains of Region Eight, on Wednesday buried four young girls who died in the recent fire at the female dormitory of the Mahdia Secondary School.

The girls are, Omefia Edwin and twins, Mary and Martha Dandrade.

Their bodies were flown in from Georgetown and Mahdia. And with many returning to the community found closest to Guyana’s Kaieteur Falls, the small airstrip there was abuzz with activity throughout the day.

A packed prayer and tribute ceremony was held in one of the community’s three churches. Families squeezed together in benches, and stood at the back or by the doors so they could be part of the moving ceremony.

It was as though the entire community converged at the church, leaving their houses and offices behind, to pay their final respects to the girls.

There, prayers and songs were delivered in both English and Patamona languages as part of efforts to pay homage to the girls’ Patamona heritage.

Chenapau residents made their way to the area where the girls were being buried (Photo: News Room/ May 31, 2023)

Edward McGarrell, the uncle of the twins, told the gathering that Mary and Martha were practically inseparable. When you saw one, it was likely that you saw the other and they both almost always had a smile plastered on their faces.

“They were always together and were loved by all,” he said.

Dortha Banfus, the aunt of Omefia, related that the young girl was a jovial person. She was also said to be close to the other girls who attended the Mahdia Secondary School.

As with the twins and Omefia, persons reflected on fond memories with Eulanda.

Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips, Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat and Public Service Minister Sonia Parag joined Chenapau residents for the funeral.

They each offered their condolences and assured the families of the government’s support even as they acknowledged that nothing could be done to fill the gaping hole left in the hearts of the girls’ families.

A total of 20 children died after the horrific fire. The four girls who hailed from Karisparu, another remote community in the Pakaraimas, and the five-year-old boy Adonijah Jerome have been laid to rest.

On Thursday, the remaining children, who all hail from another Region Eight community called Micobie, will be laid to rest.