Spread the love

By Gemma Handy

Fun-loving residents will be getting down and dirty for a fundraiser with a difference next month. Participants are invited to sign up for the ‘Mud the Halls’ obstacle course challenge comprising a series of sporting feats – which all involve getting muddy.

The December 6 event is being staged from 1pm at Hall Valley Farm in Ebenezer. Components include traversing a muddy marsh, rolling a log across a field, and a military-style mud crawl.

It is being organised by the Rohrman Association, Road Runners Cycling Club and Hurricane Power Athletic Club and all proceeds will go towards St John Hospice.

The non-profit facility for terminally ill people opened its doors nine years ago. Its founder Agnes Meeker told Observer of the crucial role it plays in the community.

“Many of our referrals come from the hospital. When the hospital is no longer able to take care of someone and can no longer do anything for them, they come to us,” she explained.

The hospice is the only one of its kind in the Eastern Caribbean and costs EC$600,000 dollars a year to run, which makes fundraisers like ‘Mud the Halls’ vital. The biggest expense, Meeker said, is paying the 16 dedicated staff who collectively provide around-the-clock care.

In addition to the 11 beds available for the dying, there are two additional rooms which also play a key role in the health system by offering short-term respite care, such as for elderly people when the families who usually care for them go away on vacation.

With a fee of $1,000 a week each, the respite rooms are one of the hospice’s biggest revenue generators, Meeker said.

 “Those rooms are always full and in demand,” she continued.

But the service has brought into sharp focus the need for a large public nursing home, Meeker continued.

“There are lots of little private-type nursing homes scattered all over which are often full. There’s a drastic need for a big state facility,” she said.

“In the old days, families took care of families and, if it’s at all possible, they still do. But so often today, both mom and dad are working, the children are in school and there isn’t family available to stay home with somebody in the house as there used to be.

“There always used to be an aunty or someone around; that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.”

The hospice evolved out of a palliative care programme offered to people in their own home. Eventually a permanent location was found at a building within the old Holberton Hospital complex. 

It took two years to raise funds to renovate it and it finally opened its doors in January 2012. Since then, “there has only been one time we have had to say to someone, sorry we have no room”, Meeker said.

Over the years, benevolent donations, fundraisers and the efforts of volunteers have helped keep the hospice going.

“I’m always amazed at how volunteerism is so alive and well in regards to the hospice,” Meeker continued. “We have very caring staff, most of whom have been with us for years.

“People volunteer in all sorts of ways, by bringing us a few dozen eggs or coming to clean the windows. When they know it’s for the hospice, they give caringly. It overwhelms me sometimes the way people come through.”

Covid-19 may have limited patients’ visitors to one at a time per room, but they are welcome to come any time of day or night.

“We try to make every day count – as a day without pain, and with care,” Meeker added. “That’s our main goal; trying to make the last days of someone’s life the best and the happiest that we can.”

For more information about the hospice visit the ‘St John Hospice Antigua’ page on Facebook or call 562-8221.

Visit https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScDssPV_MYYTFiTyM9qDjaHxyknoaNEQU_RZ_YdBXXpCyJvEA/viewform?usp=send_form to sign up for ‘Mud the Halls’.