It’s not just lively art and yoga classes putting smiles on the faces of Clarevue patients these days. The scores of residents at the country’s sole psychiatric hospital have just received a welcome shipment of new clothing too.
The boxes of T-shirts from Italy are the latest donation from kind-hearted benefactors keen to enhance the institution and the lives of its residents.
The decades-old hospital, usually home to more than 120 people, generally garners more headlines for its forlorn appearance and sparse resources.
But a determined effort by a cache of volunteers and Clarevue’s hard-working staff is paying dividends in everything from aesthetics to patient well-being.
“I’ve seen incredible changes in the patients over the years, including an increase in self-esteem and a desire to interact with each other,” Alison Archer, who has been volunteering at the hospital for more than 20 years, tells Observer.
Archer first started visiting the institution on Sunday afternoons. “From interacting with the patients I saw what nice people they were and I started visiting more often, bringing magazines and ginger mints for them in the boot of my car,” she says.
It wasn’t long before Archer’s involvement caught the attention of wealthy sponsors. In 2013, the Jumby Bay Fund paid for a major refurbishment of two disused buildings, transforming them into an occupational therapy centre, along with a facelift to the staff dining room.
Today, the centre hosts regular activity sessions ranging from bingo to handicrafts. Brightly-coloured paintings, sculptures and hanging mobiles adorn its walls and it has become a focal point for patients to relax and socialise.
Tuesday’s donation of T-shirts was arranged by Italian tourist, Josef Ruffoni, a long-term visitor to Antigua.
“I heard the hospital needed clothes so I started collecting. We have a very good charity structure in Italy which means they are easy to get. These particular T-shirts were made for a town fair and have never been worn,” he explains.
It’s not the first time Ruffoni has organised shipments to benefit Clarevue. Previous donations have been brought in containers from Italy to Antigua with the help of locally-based Italian-owned businesses.
The donation was warmly received by Clarevue’s senior executive officer Danier Nanton.
“We really appreciate Josef and all the others who keep this institution in their heart and mind,” she said.Occupational therapist assistant Kerrianne Eubanks said clothes were always gratefully accepted, along with arts and crafts supplies, toiletries and shoes.