Clem from St Vincent and the Grenadines
Hello I am Clement
I am 44 years old. I live in St Vincent and the Grenadines, West Indies with my wife Cindy and three children – Clinton 18, Melissa 16 and Shannon 15.
I was born and brought up in the town of Ipswich Suffolk, UK in December 1969. My father emigrated from Jamaica in 1956 and my mother emigrated from Barbados in 1960 to England for work and to further their studies, where they met, married and settled.
I attended several public schools – primary, middle and high, from 1974-1986.
In 1986, I left school at the age of 16 and immediately took full-time employment at a large established family-owned bakery in Ipswich – no connection to our family. The next three years (1986-1989) I completed a City and Guilds course of flour, yeast and confectionary products. I am no longer a baker but the experience has stood me in good stead to assist with general family life and entertaining. If you want to find me….check the kitchen!
Having moved from England in July 2002, I am currently employed by my father-in-law in St Vincent, manufacturing kitchen and bathroom countertops, supplying tiles, office furniture and a range of items connected to this industry. We serve the local market and regional islands with our products, which involves interaction with the local and wider community bringing challenges of “Vincy” dialect versus English! After 12 years we’re getting to understand each other.
In St Vincent, there is no option……..we have to!
On our little – “Gem of the Grenadines” – we usually fly mainly to Barbados or Trinidad to get connecting international flights. This has taken us to many different Caribbean islands as well as USA, Europe and Australia. The islands dotted around the West Indies differ in terrain, size and culture, making each place unique and precious.
My wife and I recently travelled to Baltimore, USA via Miami to visit family and friends, which including some site-seeing ventures from Washington capital to Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Amish country reminded me of the county of Suffolk where I was brought up in a farming community surrounded by fields, crops and animal smells. Of course the distances and travel times in the States vary tremendously from living on a small island…..but we loved it!
On our return journey home from Chicago there were delays due to bad weather thus causing us to miss our connection in Miami to Barbados. This meant us overnighting in Miami giving us the opportunity to see around a bit until our rescheduled flight the following morning. It was impressive to be in a first world country with the same climate but different culture.
The Rapid Relief Team – RRT in St Vincent was galvanized into action! On Christmas Eve 2013, the rains came down! This unexpected tropical system caught many unawares and pounded the island for 5 hours. We do live in a hilly country but water finds its own level. Our current airport on one of the few flat low-lying areas was put out of action and also the hospital was affected with serious flooding. A few phone calls later, we joined other community RRT members with the mammoth task of wading through mud to begin the clean-up operation at the airport along with the fire crew and airport officials.
We worked throughout the night, sweeping, scooping, shoveling and mopping……into Christmas Day, and finally got to bed around 4am. The following hours the same day our efforts were directed to our local Milton Cato Hospital where flood waters, mud and debris rendered many wards out of bounds on the lower levels of the building. We all pitched into the “Operation Clean up” from primary kids to pensioners.
Officials and staff said that previous floods had been bad but this was the worst they had experienced with the tide mark of mud up to 24” (600mm) in some places. The next task on the agenda was to deliver bulk and bottled drinking water to the Leeward and Windward storm-damaged areas of the island. This became an eye opener as many families and persons had been displaced, some tragically losing loved ones, entire homes and property swept away from severe landslides and irreparable damage to water supply lines. Our trucks were kitted out with 600 gallon water tanks, water pumps and generators. We filled up our tanks from designated water hydrant locations and distributed it to residents in need via a “bucket brigade” and to government institutions including several trips to the prison. The prison delivery was one of the most rewarding experiences…..inmates were orderly, well-mannered and helpful, although the haunting scenes of humanity in desperation….we’ll never forget.
LIFE IN THE COMMUNITY
I love life in the PBCC and enjoy making others happy. I was born into a brethren household with parents who loved and cared for me throughout their lives. My schooling and early work life were among non-brethren with different views to our faith but through choice I’ve never felt inclined to give up being a member, with the benefits of care and protection which I still enjoy with my own family today.
Initially being raised in England, I grew up among brethren members. I also formed acquaintances with persons who my parents knew in other regions including their own native Caribbean countries. As life moved on apace and I got married, my knowledge of different community members widened as I was introduced to my wife’s pen-pals and lifelong friends, the people and destinations seem endless!
We have happy times in our community especially at weekends where we visit or entertain each other in our homes. I love to see our kids interacting with those whom we all trust, whether at home or abroad.
Life is not without its challenges – no-one is exempt. There are still goals to be achieved along a path that is not always predictable, but I have a lot to be thankful for in this Christian journey.