Mrs Sacha Pingue

Sacha Pingue was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1975. She was fourteen when she came to the UK to live with an aunt and uncle in Newport and has lived in the city ever since. She is married to Everton and they have four daughters.

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Idyllic childhood in Jamaica

Sasha Pingue grew up in a large country house with an extended family, which included her parents, grandmother, uncles and aunties. In fact, it seemed she was related to almost everyone in the neighbourhood.

She cherishes childhood memories of catching shrimps in the river and of ‘running a boat’ – cooking on the riverbank with whatever fresh produce they children could find nearby. Occasionally, a sudden downpour would wash their pots and food into the river and the children would have to give chase to retrieve the pots and avoid a hiding from their parents. 

Climbing trees to collect fruit was another popular pastime. Sacha stuck to the easier tangerine, mango and guava trees, leaving the more difficult-to-climb coconut trees to her sister.

Schooldays in Jamaica

Sacha attended several schools in Jamaica. The first – Cassava River Primary – was Catholic and run by nuns.

She moved to St Russell Primary, off Rickett’s Avenue, and remembers passing entertainers on her way home.

Later, she was a pupil at Shortwood Practicing School and – after the devastation of Hurricane Gilbert – briefly attended Mico Practising Primary School, which was close to the Gun Court prison at Cross Roads.

Hurricane Gilbert

On September 12, 1988, Hurricane Gilbert hit Jamaica with sustained wind speeds of 125 miles per hour and gusts of up to 150 miles per hour.

It was the first time Jamaica had received a direct hit from a hurricane in 37 years and Sacha clearly remembers the devastating effect on her hometown.

Hurricane Gilbert lifted the roof of Shortwood Practicing School – where Sacha was now a pupil – and a fellow pupil was killed. Buildings collapsed and animals were lost.

Sacha recalls how the family reached Sacha’s nan’s house on the other side of the swollen river by forming a human chain to wade across the torrent. Her father carried her baby brother on his shoulders.

She liked Lovindeer’s memorable song ‘Hurricane Gilbert’ and said the lyrics portray an accurate picture of how local people were finding – and taking home – large household items like fridges and sinks in the aftermath of the disaster.

Discipline, manners and respect

Sacha was brought up to respect her elders and she has taught her four daughters to show that same respect to their elders in Newport.  

Living close to so many relatives wasn’t always a good thing – if you were naughty, everyone would have ‘a piece of you’ before you got home.

But it was Sacha’s dad who was the scariest and she dreaded the words ‘Wait until your father gets home’. Her father was very strict about discipline but good to his children.

With children of her own, she believes manners and respect are as important – if not more – than academic qualifications.

Mingling with wealthier people

Sacha’s father worked for West Indies Pulp and Paper Limited. His bosses were nice people who treated their employees well.

They often gave him toys to take home for his own children, and he would share his good fortune with others by handing out some of the toys to the children he passed on the way back to his family home.

Sometimes, her father’s generosity was a bone of contention with Sacha, especially when he gave a neighbour’s daughter the very toy – a sketchpad – that Sacha wanted for herself.

There was so much to be thankful for, however, like the days her father picked his children up from school in a nice car or when the whole family were invited to his employers’ homes with their swimming pools and sprinklers.

Early days in Newport

At fourteen, Sacha left everything she knew to come to live in Newport.

What hit her first on that June morning was how cold the UK weather was.

She lived with her mother’s sister and her husband and, for the first time, she had her own bedroom.

She hated that first year at Lliswerry High School. The White children wouldn’t accept her, but, with her fair complexion, the few Black pupils at the school would not accept her either. She spent a lot of time alone, scared to talk because her accent was so different. 

Fortunately, things gradually improved, and with the support of a great teacher called Mr Murphy, she eventually settled and made Newport her long-term home.

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