NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (JUNE 23, 2017) — Eileen Swanston Smithen of Gingerland, is the latest to joined an elite group of seniors in St. Kitts and Nevis, when she celebrated her 100th birthday on June 20, 2017. She is the 18th living centenarian in the Federation but the 7th on Nevis.
Moments after a service of thanksgiving in her honour at the Zion Gospel Hall in Gingerland, Eileen, who has lost her eyesight years before, thanked all who attended and urged them to care for their elders.
“I rise in my heart to say thank you. I didn’t expect such thing. That’s just a joke to me and I say thanks to everybody. May God bless you all…may he carry you all back safely to your homes, your family. Children … take care of the old ones for we already take care of the young ones,” she said.
Eileen, was born in 1917 at the top of Harris’ Village. She attended the New River All Age School. When she was 19 she moved to Zion Village with her family.
After living school, she worked on the road and at Liburd Estate to support her mother. She lost her first eye while working at Liburd Estate but that didn’t deter her. However, while clearing sugar cane at Fothergills Estate she unfortunately lost her other eye.
Ms. Smithen carried on her life and sold nuts, oil, envelopes and paper while cooking, washing and cleaning for herself.
She was also a farmer who raises sheep and pigs and cultivated her own vegetable garden. When she patched nuts her neighbour Linda, would help to select the good ones.
Ms. Smithen also served as a community messenger. When a baby was born, she would take the information regarding the date of birth, the name of the child and the parents to the Old Manor Estate which at the time served as the registration office.
She received education in braille from Mr. Joseph Brown in the St. James Parish, later on relocated to the ground floor of the Alexandra Hospital and lastly at the Blind School, in Charlestown.
At the Blind School, she became exceptional in the art of making from straw, baskets, fans, cane chairs, hampers and table mats. She never lost her independence.
Ms. Smithen had no biological children but is known to have cared for many children in her surrounding village.
At the age of 94, she became confined to her bed and is grateful to Pastor Theophilus Kelly who is her main care giver.
Despite all the challenges she has faced in her life, Ms. Smithen’s faith in God remains steadfast. She continues to encourage anyone who visits in the Word of God, quote scripture and knows where to find it.
Although she lost her eyesight, Ms. Smithen makes up for her impairment with her memory, sense of humour and infectious laughter.
She attributes her long life to obeying the 5th commandment – Exodus 22: 12 which states, “Honour thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God has given thee”.
Among those present at the service were Premier of Nevis Hon. Vance Amory, Hon. Wendy Phipps, Senator in the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Development, Hon. Alexis Jeffers, Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister in the Ministry of Social Development on Nevis, Opposition Leader in Nevis Hon. Joseph Parry and Senator Hon. Carlisle Powell, whose grandmother is the oldest living centenarian in St. Kitts and Nevis.