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  • Writer's pictureHummingbird Retreat

Reflections from the Retreat March 2024

The change to writing monthly blogs instead of weekly has been ideal because the last few weeks have been very busy. Since my last blog, I have had four visitors, Steve, Victoria, Chris and Rosemary, who volunteered to help on the house. Whenever I have visitors I always like to show them Grenada and so when we weren’t working we were visiting various tourist sites or enjoying a swim or meal out. One of the guests, Steve, wanted to do a few snorkelling trips and so we visited the Underwater Sculpture Park as well as a day trip to Carriacou. The photo above shows them enjoying the small desert island of Mopion.

They worked hard and it was so great to see various projects take shape. In particular, it has been very satisfying to finally get all the books out of boxes and onto the library shelves, all in the correct number order. I now have the task of emptying the dehumidifier which fills with about 4 pints of water, twice a day and helps to keep the books at the right humidity.

Another completed project was the construction of four moveable panels for the courtyard that Chris and Steve constructed. As well as being mosquito screens they are reinforced with wire mesh to prevent bats from flying into the open living area in the evenings.

Rosemary had offered to make curtains but we didn’t foresee the battles that she would end up having with temperamental sewing machines. I was grateful when two different neighbours offered their sewing machines to complete the job, when my machine decided it was too hot to sew. So we now have voile curtains for the office and Soul Space room.

Victoria was just the person I needed to kick start my gardening here and she worked hard to prepare the courtyard flower beds and together we planted lettuces, cucumbers and tomatoes, which are growing fast. Some of Victoria’s passion for gardening rubbed off on me when we visited a large, local nursery and we bought a few pot plants and planned how the larger garden might look. We also collected seaweed to enrich the vegetable beds and create a seaweed fertiliser.

Over the last month, there have been a number of beach clean-ups in preparation for the arrival of nesting turtles along this coast. Early one Sunday morning I joined the team at Bathway and we collected about 40 bags of rubbish. This was mainly plastic bottles and other debris that gets washed up from other beaches and thrown off boats. However, I was encouraged to hear that the amount of litter has been decreasing, according to the other volunteers who have been doing this for over 15 years. It was also encouraging to see that a turtle had come up and laid her eggs in a nest the night before.

March is a busy time for this area because it is the chosen month for the St Patrick parish to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Grenada’s independence. This is because 17th March is St Patrick’s Day and with it falling on a Sunday, as well as being a double celebration of independence, the parish hosted a concert and fireworks as well as a farmers market and various stalls. The month's events started with a gospel concert that we attended and other events include tree planting by the preschool, a health and wellness day, a cooking competition, a quiz and a school debate.

So I will now hand over to my recent guests to share their reflections of their visit:

A few months ago, Victoria, Steve, Chris, and I had no idea that we would be flying off to Grenada in February and exchanging the cold and damp of England for the hot and breezy weather of a Caribbean island. When we heard the request for help at the Hummingbird Retreat from Hilary’s mother Maureen, at church, the type of help needed sounded exactly suited to our skills – DIY, gardening, sewing.

We are grateful to Hilary for putting her trust in four people she didn’t know. It has been such a rewarding experience.

When we arrived, our senses were bombarded – we were woken on our first morning by waves crashing on the beach, and birds singing in the lush forest; the view from the veranda was stunning – turquoise sea, azure blue sky, magenta bougainvillea, tropical islands.

After a day to settle in, with a tour around the house and local area, we set to work clearing and sorting the “shed” – never had a cool shower felt so good later in the day! Once our wood, nails, hinges, and mozzie mesh, fabric and cotton, peat and chicken manure had been ordered and gathered, we were off. We sawed, drilled, hammered and stapled; measured, cut, pinned and sewed; bashed, sieved, enriched and planted; and finally achieved our goals. By the end of 2½ weeks we had built 4 removable bat screens for the courtyard arches, created fertile raised beds planted with salad crops, and potted beautiful shrubs; sewn voile curtains for five windows and helped Hilary fill her library bookshelves with hundreds of books. Many other small jobs were done as well including fixing shelves in the kitchen, repairing a pot broken in transit, mounting amazing handmade lampshades, and filling many holes, in preparation for decorating. What a privilege to contribute towards the realisation of Hilary and Hosten’s vision of the restorative retreat centre. At times the task ahead of Hilary must seem daunting to her, but she has progressed with a gentle determination over the last year (little did we realise when we booked the flights that we would arrive exactly to the day of Hilary’s arrival a year previously).

As we approached our last day, I could see the difference that we had made. We may have had challenges along the way e.g. battling with uncooperative sewing machines, sweat dripping in our eyes etc. but we produced results. Every volunteer has come and contributed significant steps towards the final plan.

Hilary was very generous in taking us around to see various sights and places of interest. Two particular highlights of our trip need mentioning. We took part in a Samaritan’s Purse Shoebox distribution at Pearls Church of God. This was a special pleasure as we have previously filled shoeboxes back at home to be sent off around the world. Now, here we were at the other end, taking part in giving out the gifts to the assembled children and enjoying their delight on opening their boxes. Another day we flew over to Carriacou. Whilst Hilary spent the day with Hosten’s family we had a magical boat trip with Froggy, cruising between idyllic islands, picnicking beneath palms on coral beaches, and snorkelling amongst colourful fish in crystal seas; what a treat!

So, we give thanks to God for prompting us to take the opportunity of travelling to Hummingbird Retreat to offer our time and abilities. We shall remember with joy the taste of spiced hot cocoa tea, rum punch, and gospo juice; the sound of beeping horns, heavy rain on a metal roof; the feel of soft sand between our toes, warm sea, bumpy roads, and mosquito bites; the smell of sunscreen, seaweed, nutmeg and the fish market; and the sight of the red, green and yellow Grenadian national colours painted with abandon everywhere we went; and above all the friendliness of everyone we met in this paradise place. We were truly blessed.

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