Nesta Patrick is now 90 years old. She has attained a milestone many people don't.
This acclaimed womens rights activist and social worker's accomplishments and the astounding life she has lived were celebrated by her children, family and friends at a huge birthday celebration on August 25.
A happy and enthusiastic Patrick said, "It's a great privilege for me to live to be 90 after all that I have experienced over the years," she said.
Patrick, whose birthday was August 29, was speaking at her Mt Lambert home which she built 54 years ago.
The cozy home is decorated with items collected from her various travels throughout the world.
The cherished items include a photograph from NASA, a rocking chair made by special education children in the Dominican Republic and a carpet made by women in Beijing, China. There are other items from Abidjan, Sicily, Copenhagen, Jerusalem, Ecuador, Argentina and Suriname.
She showed off a wall featuring the plethora of awards and accolades she has received over the years including: the first recipient of the Caricom Triennial Award for Women; Honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) by the University of the West Indies, St Augustine in 2001; the Public Service Medal of Merit Gold for Community Service in 1979; the Caribbean Award for Mental Retardation in 1978; and the Award for Community Service by the Business and Professional Women's Club in 1992;
Back in 1982 Patrick was one of the first recipients of the Express Individual of the Year Award for her "dedication to public service" in the spheres of social work and community work.
Now some 30 years later Patrick says,"I am pleased to see the changes in the field of social work with the academic improvements and use of behavioural sciences. In my time I walked everywhere, districts were larger and you intermingled closer with people and I dearly love people so I enjoyed every bit of that," she recalled with a smile
Looking however at the state of the country after almost a century of life Patrick confessed that she finds parenting today is a problem. "I am saddened when I hear about a young person being shot or imprisoned."
She is of the opinion that no one is born bad.
"We do not think what caused it to reach to that stage. Nobody is born bad so it seems that something didn't go right in the upbringing situation. So I am always hoping that somebody will see that the very urgent need today is parenting," she said.
She lamented that when young women get pregnant today in most cases they have no one to turn to, whereas long ago there were parents and aunts and great aunts who could teach them about mothering.
"Today who do you talk to? she asked.
Patrick said," The mothers are at work, the fathers are somewhere else in most cases. So this young woman is left with what is not a joy but a burden and these children grow up without feeling true love," she opined.
Patrick noted that at her 90th birthday party she recognised how much her children kept in their minds "the true meaning of love; what love truly is". She recalled that they did everything together and talked about everything.
"They were always sure I was there and we always believed in each other," she said.
She explained that their father was in England and she had to raise her four children on her own, but that prayer was the cornertsone of their lives.
"I would always pray with them, which was very important to our family life. Now that they are grown and living their own lives I still continue my daily hour meditation. I lives by prayer. "
"You must believe and you must understand that there is a superior being, a power, that is responsible for all of us," she stressed..
Patrick said that one of the things she enjoyed immensely was talking to young people.
"I have many adopted children, including community activist Hazel Brown and social worker and former minister Verna St Rose Greaves.
"I love people and all of us want somebody to love us. That is what life is about.".
She recalled that years ago Morvant Police called on her in to help with some mischievous boys, about 13 to 14 ranging in ages 10 to 15.
"They told me of their troubled lives. One boy asked me, 'Miss, you leave all your work and come?' I said yes, because I love you all," she recalled.
According to Patrick, a lot of troubled young people have nobody to talk to.
"They need help and they are not getting it at home, they not getting it at school, where they getting it? Then we are alarmed when we see four get killed over so many days. What do you expect? People need people. And that is my grief in my old age," she said.
She continued: "I say Lord sometimes I thank you I am going because it's painful. It hurts for me to reach to this stage to see this. It means the world is worse off than it was when I was young. So what's going to happen after I go? My grandchildren are going to be involved. My great grand will be involved. So I am troubled at 90."
While she was saddened by the state of parenting and youths involved in crime Patrick is pleased with the accomplishments of women in the past five decades of this country's Independence. She was president of five women's organisations over the years and this led to her receiving the Caricom Triennial Award.
"We worked hard for the advancement of women. Giving women the opportunity to understand the importance of being themselves, to understand that they had to uphold themselves, be proud of themselves and work towards their own advancement and not lie back and say 'I can't do that because I'm not able to'," she said.
She noted that growing up with seven brothers and no sisters she knew what it was to "brush off with a guy" (physically fight). She would climb trees with them and look at car engines." I started driving at 12 and have never had an accident. Whatever the boys did I felt I had to do it also," she recalled.
She was pleased that this country had its first woman Prime Minister in Kamla Persad-Bissessar and it was a "great thing for us as women".
She said women now have great opportunities that they did not have in her time; some were making use of it while others were just lying back.
She noted there had been a lot of advancement in 50 years, women were speaking out, going on to committees and boards. She was pleased when she received her honorary doctorate from UWI. It was mostly women that had received the degrees on that occasion and expressed hope that going forward women would be able to help each other.
She recalled her work at the Rape Crisis Centre, which she helped to start and did a lot of work on violence against women with activist Diana Mahabir-Wyatt adding that "it is a weakness in a man for him to hit a woman."
Her other area of passion was special education children. Patrick used her first scholarship in the 1950s to become the first person trained in the Caribbean in special education.
She was one of the founders of the Trinidad and Tobago Association for Retarded Children and the Lady Hochoy Home and was also president of Caribbean Mental Retardation. She noted that children who have autism or dyslexia can learn to their potential and should not be ridiculed "because they too have their place in the world".
"God has been good to me. He gave me a chance to do the things that I enjoy."she said.
As the country turned 50 Patrick's dream is for her grandchildren and great grandchildren to inherit a country where people love and share with each other, believe in each other and work together instead of against each other.