INSCRIPTION[1]The excitement was palpable!

At the Old Mill, we gathered at dawn’s early light for our much anticipated trans-insular journey. The merry mixture of aromas from everybody’s picnic stuff tempted adults to ask repeatedly – in their minds at least – are we there yet?! It was a cosy fit in the two buses. One had no choice but to really get to know fellow passengers while staving off the rising heat with an ample supply of chilled drinks from the coolers.

Indeed, we were on a noble mission. You see, caring for those with mental and physical disabilities is a cross that society has to bear with grace. In their time, the Nazis had crowed, “We don’t think so!” So, for Jews and other non-master races, trade unionists, deviants, retarded, and all manner of perceived imperfect people – it was off to the gas chambers for them.

Today, we know better. Gone are the days when children and adults alike would cruelly mock these unfortunate souls by shouting ‘Mou-mou!’ Our Godly reverent fear teaches us that what determines the level of civilization is how we treat the least of these. DOWHAS’ visit to the House of Hope in Delices dramatized that in living colour!

Solution for returnees

What does DOWHAS stand for anyway? The Dominican Welfare and Hospital Aid Scheme was registered in December 1997. According to secretary/treasurer Morris Cyrille, it arose from locals and returning Dominicans who organized to help each other with hospitalization expenses, contribute to worthy causes and just to have an all-round good time! Meetings are lively affairs, conducted in fair semblance of parliamentary order.  It is a durable bubble where members find old-school civility liberally sprinkled with forward-thinking ideas for community and nation building.

First, we had a vibrant worship experience at the Delices Catholic Church. The extra special welcome was typical of that traditional hospitality. Then, the cherry on top of the day’s activities was right around the corner!

Tender care for the residents of House of Hope

Tender care for the residents of House of Hope

Total Care

There is no other facility quite like this in the nation. We were honoured with a grand tour of House of Hope (HOH) by members of the volunteer Board. Like the staff, they are hard-working, visionary and expressly behind the scenes. In 2002, the St. Vincent De Paul Society started this place of refuge for the total care of the severely disabled. The six female residents at the HOH hail from families whose burdens were lifted from as far away as Petite Soufriere and Tarish Pit.

HOH receives a subvention from Government, but is still heavily dependent on donations from businesses, charitable organizations and concerned individuals. According to Esther Shillingford, chairperson of DOWHAS, the members were generous in their gifts of cash and kind. However, the board expressed the need for a mechanism to enlist continuing support in this most worthy cause. There are currently no ‘brothers’ among ‘the least of these’ residents. House of Hope is addressing this gender discrepancy through expansion for which they appeal for further support.

House of Hope and DOWHAS Board members

House of Hope and DOWHAS Board members

A truly White River?

Like you, I have savoured one or two picnics in my time. None have felt quite as rewarding as this one. The energetic and exuberant Christopher Valerie, DOWHAS’ social organizer, then led the way to the splish-splash in the White River. The Destination Dominica website describes how the White River derives its greenish-milky colour from sulphurous waters flowing from the Boiling Lake. By the time it reaches Delices, however, it is cool and refreshing. Unlike the demanding trek for most other iconic landmarks, this invigorating therapeutic river bath can be yours after just a five-minute walk from the main road.

My father grew up in Delices. Surely this must have been his stumping ground as a boy. Did he swing on the vine as I did, to take a flying leap in the depths? Did he hold his breath underwater for the entire length of the ‘basseh.’ Did he catch seewik, qweebish, veo, taytar and dormay to make a braff on the river bank?I could feel the spirits of our ancestors deep within my bones.

That’s the thing about Dominica! There is always a place to go: not just for picnic food or doing good, but for whatever else meets your fancy.Furthermore, it is amazing how people find each other: the like-minded from far and near, the grateful ones who are cordial, considerate and caring with regards to their fellow citizens.  The wise men, they say, came from the East. If you ever have the chance to head in this direction, be sure to sparkle at any of these must-see destinations.

To contribute, please call House of Hope at767 446-2208.

Contact DOWHAS at:  767 448-4030 / 615-7423

Dr. Sam Christian is surgeon who runs the Urgent Care on 137 Bath Road. It offers general medical care, office surgery, acupuncture. He is Medical Officer of the Dominica Cadet Corps and Medical Adviser to the Dominica Cancer Society. Dr. Christian can be reached at 440-9133 or by writing to urgentcare.da@gmail.com.