At last, at last, at long last, the residents and staff at the Fiennes Institute are on the move to new temporary quarters at the Nurses Hostel. These new digs are a significant improvement on the 1920’s-era structures (ordered built by Governor Sir Eustace Fiennes, a man of vision and compassion) that had fallen into a shocking state of disrepair. It would not be a stretch to suggest that the conditions at the Fiennes Institute were a human rights violation, and they reflected rather poorly on us.
Thankfully – and all Antiguans and Barbudans are indeed thankful; not to mention the staff, the union representatives, and the longsuffering residents of the Institute – that sordid chapter in the way we care forthe less fortunate among us is now closed. Of course, we must needs salute the Ministry of Health and the Public Works folks for acting with some dispatch to ameliorate the conditions under which our most vulnerable brothers and sisters languished. MP Lennox Weston made a promise that the Fiennes would be relocated to the hostel by this past Wednesday, and in admirable fashion, he delivered on that promise. We certainly wish to applaud MP Weston and MP Molwyn Joseph for stepping up in a big way and leading this long-overdue effort.
Seems all is not lost and that ‘milk of human kindness’ that informed Governor Fiennes is still flowing somewhere in the hearts of those charged with these most important responsibilities. Would that other MPs step up and do right by the citizens who are depending on them for a real and meaningful betterment. (Not cheap, gimmicky handouts, mind you.) Would that our MPs make every effort to keep the promises that they make to the body politic. After all, as is so often said in some circles, “Word is bond!” Would that the aforementioned Messrs. Weston and Joseph replicate the great team effort and sense of urgency that informed the . . . er “pig-sty to palace” Fiennes relocation at Clarevue, another abode for those with extenuating challenges. Clarevue is a festering sore that needs to be addressed post haste. Governor Sir Eustace Fiennes would be proud!
Consider the following glowing account of the good governor (One of our best governors ever) by former MP Sir Selvyn Walter in his July 29th 2010 Daily Observer column, OF DIS AND DAT: The Paradox of OldAge (Part 1): “What we have to address is how the nature of our villages and our city environment has imperceptively changed, leaving our older people stranded like beached whales floundering in theshallows of thetwilight of life without direction or help. This phenomenon was recognised in the 1920s by our Governor, Sir Eustace Fiennes, whose socialist background impelled him to initiate programmes in Antigua that are still relevant today. I salute him,especially for drilling for sub-surface water – Fiennes Well; attempting to take care of health problems — vide the lepers; and attempting to solve the problems associated with old age in a colonial society — vide the Fiennes Institute, derisively called the Poor House by the general populace. You may wish to call theresults of hisefforts by any name you desire, but when we consider the existence at that time of slums like Gray’s Farm, Garling’s Land, Pig Village, The Point and Booby Alley, the changing social conditionsin the villages, the influx of people to St. John’s and its environs, the construction of the Fiennes Institute near to the Holberton Hospital and Lady Nugent Cemetery for black paupers, it was a planning feat. Poor, old people had two placesto go — either Fiennes Institute or Lady Nugent Cemetery, both of which were in close proximity to each other.”
Clearly, the good governor did much to alleviate suffering and make ours a more progressive and caring society. He was doing God’s work. And so should we. Much like Mrs. Joan Peters, the president of the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association and the other members of the union, and the Ministries of Health and Public Works, as well as civic bodies that have been playing a philanthropic role, especially at Clarevue, we can chip in to help in ways large and small. After all, we are taking to heart the scriptural reminder (Matthew 25:40 KJV) that, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Amen!
The spirit of Governor Sir Eustace Fiennes lives! It just needs a little coaxing and cajoling. And a strike and some protest action. The will to do that which is right, and a demonstration and a boycott every now and again wouldn’t hurt either.