The need for intervention was recognized, in 1986, having witnessed girls in distress during assembly as well as in classes. The Problem: lack of food. For some, the problem was economic, while for others it was poor management of time. Girls were traveling to Bishop Anstey High School from distant places such as Sangre Grande, leaving home as early as 4.30 am, without breakfast. “That discovery gave rise to a breakfast programme at the school”, says Mrs.Catherine Cumberbatch, who attended BAHS from 1955 to 1959 and taught Home Economics there for 24 years, from 1968 to 1992.
We were fortunate to catch up with Mrs. Cumberbatch, who was graciously willing to share insight about her experience in the formative stages of the Student Health Intervention Programme (SHIP).
The idea for Student Health Intervention Programme (SHIP) was presented to the School Committee of the Hilarian Association, whose committee chairperson was Ms Daphne Solomon, (deceased July, 2014 ) and in its early stages was catered by a Hilarian sister, Sherma Henry, (deceased June, 2014). Initally, SHIP started with 8 girls, and grew. By 1988, it served about 36 girls, and the programme was expanded to include lunch, care packages for vacation days, health care, graduation needs, counselling, etc – whatever was necessary was done. Hilarian sisters gave not only of their money, but of their talents and skills. Those who were doctors, opticians, guidance counsellors for example, attended to girls who needed care. Dr Garthlyn Charles Craig, a former head girl and Mrs Joyce Headly were among the first responders relevant to health needs aprart from food. Though most of the needs of students were met by Hilarian contributions, Hilarians also proved their ability to ‘outreach’. However, many benefactors chose to remain anonymous.
By 1990, the method of administration was changed to foster greater participation of the girls enrolled in the programme. They did the pre-preparation in the Home Economics lab under the guidance of Mrs. Cumberbatch. Girls not on the programme were encouraged to assist. The programme sought to teach girls that we must look out for each other, be of service, and the importance of giving back. The actual cooking was done by Mrs. Cumberbatch, ably assisted by students in her Home Ec classes. Volunteers from the sixth form who enjoyed early lunch release, assisted with the preparation of the dining room and the serving of food.
Mrs. Cumberbatch muses, “Change is constant and to be expected. Happily though, I can report the SHIP remains afloat.” Following the 1990s, the administration of the programme has again changed. The core values remain intact, but for various reasons, the girls are no longer involved in the meal preparation. “It was indeed a challenge”, says Mrs. Cumberbatch, “teaching classes and doing large scale cooking at the same time, but for me, being a Hilarian, it was a labour of love.” Upon her leaving the school (1992) The Principal’s flat upstairs the old library was then used for the total administration of the programme. In an attempt to maintain the format, The School Committee hired a cook, and the programme continued until the building was condemned. “That’s when meal prep went outside the school compound”, explains Mrs. Cumberbatch. Having since retired, Mrs. Cumberbatch is no longer at the helm, but is forever thankful to the original crew, Shirley Turpin, Daphne Solomon, Sherma Henry, Corinne Baptiste Mc Knight, Joy Wiltshire (all deceased ) Justice Monica Barnes, Monica Hylton, Gloria Rogers, Esla Molineaux, and Jean Padmore George. Last but not least, Mrs Freda Araujo the then school principal who gave full support to the programme. She recognizes those who are now in charge for doing a wonderful job. SHIP will be 29 years old in September, 2015!
Khadeidra’s note: As I expressed thanks to Ms Cumberbatch for sharing the SHIP story, I revealed to her that despite attending BAHS from 2000-2005, I never knew such a programme even existed. She responded, “…as to how you never heard of the programme, my only thought is that maybe, because of the sensitive nature of it all, and trying not to make girls uncomfortable, even though participation was encouraged, it was quietly done. There can be cruel and insensitive ones among us.” This saddened me, and I’d like to encourage supporting this meaningful endeavour in any way possible.
Donations can be made regularly to The Old Hilarians Association for the SHIP.
Account Name: B.A.H.S. Student Health Intervention Programme.
Republic Bank Account No.: 150496953501
Posted by Khadeidra Le Gendre
On Bishop Anstey High School Alumnae Society Blog