When persons living in the Red Zone began to evacuate on April 08, just ahead of the start of explosive eruptions of the soufriere volcano, they took with them elderly members of their families. However, many of these senior citizens were left to fend for themselves at various shelters, and were left behind when their relatives returned home after the all clear was given.
However, in fulfilment of a public commitment which Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves made, the government is renovating a former estate house at Orange Hill to accommodate these abandoned elderly, many of whom are suffering from dementia.
Currently at the J.P. Eustace Memorial Secondary School there are about 27 such abandoned senior citizens.
Work has just begun to refurbish their proposed new home which was once the residence of Bertie Barnard, and is situated just a few yards from the Aqueduct once used to channel water from the mountains to the coast. Bertie Barnard is brother to Cyril and Denis Barnard. Denis Barnard migrated to St Lucia and owned a large estate in that island.
According to Prime Minister Gonsalves, there were many issues to be considered when choosing a location to house these citizens, including their mental health, and this along with other reasons, prompted a closer examination of all issues relating to their safety and well-being.
Adam Billingy, a retired police officer and who is currently employed with the refurbishment project, told SEARCHLIGHT Newspaper that the Barnards stopped living there after the estate was sold.
He said that the site is perfect to house the elderly citizens as “Some of them may have worked on the estate for the Barnards, so it is fitting that they be granted the opportunity to live the rest of their days in peace on the very estate that they served.”
Billingy said “It is shameful that persons can abandon their parents, the elderly members of their family and force government to find maybe about a million plus dollars to fix the building, put in equipment, and pay persons to take care” of their elderly relatives, noting that “the volcano eruptions have exposed the nasty side in many people.”
Billingy is however happy that the project is being executed and pointed to the peaceful environment and the likely increased economic activity it can cause to be generated in the community.
Gonsalves said it was found that a lot more work needed to be done on the building than at first thought therefore, the projected cost of refurbishment would increase and it would take a longer time to complete.
He said the facility would fall within the responsibility of the Lewis Punnet Home.