November 4, 2005
Nurse – from village to village on foot

Doris Providence retired as a Nurse after serving for 25 years. She has seen changes in the approach to medical practices as compared to her time in the field, but she is content with her contribution to the country’s overall health improvement.

Born Doris Harry, April 25, 1920, she married Leonard Providence while still in her teenage years. That union produced one son, Leroy.{{more}}

Doris Providence became a community figure in North Leeward. Residents in the villages of Troumaca, Rose Hall, Coulls Hill, Rose Bank in particular have fond memories of her.

For many, she is the Florence Nightingale of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

One resident Hilda Garraway/Robertson referred to Doris Providence as “the Mother of Health for Troumaca, Rose Hall, Rose Bank and Coulls Hill during our crisis with ‘yaws’, ‘chigger’, and ‘tobeau’. She ‘tended the sick, delivered babies, operated clinics from village to village on her feet.”

Doris Providence took up nursing as a career in 1947, by fulfilling her interest in becoming a midwife. She proved a competent midwife, and once engaged in the health field, she completed the general nursing course.

She was referred to simply as ‘Nurse,’ testimony of the respect which residents held for her.

‘Nurse’ was not one to seek personal gains, or unnecessary glorification. She worked steadfastly, and went about her duties with commitment. She elevated herself by dint of hard work and training and served as Supervisor for the area.

Nurse Providence was a reliable health practitioner. She braved any weather conditions, be it lightning, thunder, or rain. She walked, rode donkeys, horses, motorcycles, or any form of transport in order to accomplish her task.

She recalled going to Rose Hall on Public Health Inspector Billingy’s horse.

“People were excited to see me on a horse,” Nurse Providence recalled. She remembered mounting the horse from a wall in Troumaca and that someone secured the animal for her while she went about her mission in Rose Hall.

That was perhaps a lucky day for her, because on most other occasions, it was her feet as the only mode of transportation.

She recalled walking to Rose Hall twice a day or from Rose Hall to Rose Bank and back to Rose Hall.

Rose Hall is about two miles to the east of Troumaca, and Rose Bank is a half-mile to the north.

Many North Leeward residents still maintain their respect for ‘Nurse’. She was perhaps the one who was around when they saw their first light, and she made it her duty to instill aspects of healthy living in the various communities.

Owing to the role she performed, Nurse Providence is revered and appreciated by the rest of the society. She has memories of riding on motor cycles, owned by Clinton Williams, and Bertie Williams. They were contractors who moved around building back walls, houses, and other projects.

Nurse Providence has seen sterilisation of certain instruments by boiling them in water in containers on oil stoves.

She recalled that with help from Dr. Gideon Cordice, diseases like yaws were wiped out.

Skin diseases, caused by dirt roads, poor sanitation practices and in some instances unrealistic approaches contributed to the spread of certain illnesses.

Nurse Providence understood and appreciated the value of proper nutrition and instilled in the community, the benefits of a balanced diet as well as decency.

She was pleased with the response especially of Rose Hall residents. “They responded admirably,” Nurse Providence pointed out.

She is resting at her son’s residence at Arnos Vale. Her husband died recently. Nurse Providence was something of an authority figure not least in Troumaca. She recalled that “it was rough with transport.” Sometimes patients were taken by boat to the Central Leeward district of Barrouallie, then by ambulance to Kingstown.

“We have gone a long way,” Nurse Providence observes.

She noted changes in the approaches to delivery of health care in these times as compared to what happened in her times.

But she pointed out that: “People used to be more considerate. They had more respect for others.”

Nurse Providence is something of a role model. She is a capable seamstress, and sewed her first Nurses’ uniform.

Nurse Providence is a devout Christian. She learnt music under Nurse Marion Robertson, and later from Annie Marshall.

The Methodist Church in Troumaca benefited from her musical skills and she served as organist there on numerous occasions. Then, the Methodist Church was like the axis of the community activities, and Nurse Providence was one who shaped the direction of the district.

She was called upon to deliver many a lecture on any aspect of social development, for Nurse Providence proved to be the complete individual.

She maintained a healthy family life, and with her influence on community, the standard and quality of life were enhanced in the entire North Leeward district.

It was not entirely smooth sailing for Nurse Providence. She recalled incurring the wrath of the political authorities during the 1972 to 1974 era.

She was accused of campaigning when she was doing home visits to Rose Bank. The then area representative threatened her because she was on the road where a gang was cleaning.

There are persons who have been rewarded for their contribution to nation building, but Doris Providence has not been mentioned. Perhaps persons in North Leeward ought to be more vocal in calling for some recognition for her.

Perhaps her service has not been documented, for once entrenched in the remote district in North Leeward, that might have marked the end of her existence, and any injection to ensure community development was overlooked by the central government.

When the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is completed, there must be a place for Doris Providence. Her name must be in the annals of the country’s historical records among those who have made an impact on progress.