Her Excellency Reema Carmona’s Address during the Handing Over Ceremony to the Lady Hochoy Homes

Her Excellency Reema Carmona address during the Handing Over Ceremony of gifts by Her Excellency Madame Peng Liyuan, First Lady of the People’s Republic of China to the Lady Hochoy Homes on December 22, 2014.

It is with a great sense of nostalgia that I remember the historic and fruitful State Visit of His Excellency, XI Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China and my esteemed and dear friend, Her Excellency Madame Peng Liyuan to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.  As hostess to Madame Peng, I particularly recall our visit to Lady Hochoy Home, Cocorite and that milk of human kindness exhibited by her, by that unexpected and unsolicited gift of love.  I refer to the million dollar donation by Her Excellency Madame Peng to the Lady Hochoy Homes.  This is a case where one great deed will change lives.

It will resonate indefinitely in the lives of those it has touched who too often are forgotten.  I am speaking about our voiceless citizens, our silent men, women and children, who are here with us today and traditionally would have been locked away and ignored, and treated as though they do not have the same rights as every other citizen.  Sadly, I remember there was a time in Trinidad and Tobago when you would not know that there was a disabled or differently-abled child in a family.  He or she would be forced into isolation, to be considered lucky if they were allowed to even look out of a window.  It was considered taboo for anyone in the family to speak about them and, unjustifiably and inhumanely, they were regarded as a source of shame on the family.  It took one phenomenal person to bring us all back on track, a person in the persona of Lady Thelma Hochoy, wife of the former Governor General of Trinidad and Tobago.  In 1957, Lady Thelma Hochoy visited the then-House of Refuge now called the St. James Infirmary, and she discovered twenty–five disabled and differently-abled children living among the destitute and elderly mentally ill patients.  This visit was instrumental in creating a vision for a better world for the marginalized.  Lady Hochoy, working with the Carmelite Sisters and others gave substance to that vision and it resulted in what can only be described as an exceptional social initiative and intervention called the Lady Hochoy Home.

We have improved, but we are still not where we should be.  We as a society will be judged by how we treat those who cannot help themselves.  The strong must always help the weak.  I am aware directly and have been made aware indirectly, of the challenges faced by the Lady Hochoy Homes, past and present.

We need more love, ladies and gentlemen, and our citizens here today can show us how to achieve it because they exude love.  The aid that has been received will go a very long way in improving the standard of living and education provided to the residents of the Lady Hochoy Homes, both in Cocorite and Gasparillo.  It will provide much welcomed assistance to the angelic caregivers who give of their time, energy and love to perform this social service.  These are Homes filled with selfless giving and unadulterated love.  The benefits of these gifts, the passenger buses, the dining cars, the multifunctional beds to name a few, are immeasurable.  The buses will allow for extra-curricular activities beyond the perimeter of these walls.  It affords all the children at the Homes the wonderful opportunity to visit places of interest throughout Trinidad and Tobago.  In this season of giving, where the message of hope and good will, lives eternal such wonderful gifts from Her Excellency Madame Peng, are timely and pragmatic as they are genuine and sincere.

Just as I have said ‘thank you’ to our friends from the People’s Republic of China, I would also like to take a moment to say a special ‘thank you’ to our friends and past and present caregivers of the Lady Hochoy Homes.  I refer particularly to Sister Antoinette Dickie and Sister Antoinette Fahey, aunt and cousin of His Excellency respectively, Sister Petronella, Sister Bertil Deane, and how can we forget the loving arms of deceased Sister Anne and those loving teachers.  You all truly are angels without wings.  Sister Bertil, your staff and other executive members of the TTARC and the Lady Hochoy Homes and Schools in North and South Trinidad, have gone and continue to go above and beyond the call of duty to be that glimmer of light and hope in what would otherwise be the darkness of these children’s lives.  I have no doubt that this gift from our friends in the People’s Republic of China is deeply appreciated and will be put to more than good use.

For many of the residents of the two Lady Hochoy Homes, Christmas is a grim reminder of families who may have abandoned them, but we must show that each and every one of them matter and can find genuine love in these very Homes.  An occasion like this demonstrates caring and inclusiveness.  I pray that the friendship established with the People’s Republic of China continues to blossom and bear beautiful fruit.  I cannot help but emphasize, once again, the deep sense of gratitude and appreciation to Her Excellency Madame Peng for these wonderful gifts that will impact affirmatively on the lives of everyone at the two Lady Hochoy Homes.

May you all have a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year.