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Passion to help Nicaragua’s poor

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Elizabeth Spalding (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Liz Spalding had two daughters back to back — and then bought a chicken farm.

She and her husband, Neville, hadn’t yet been married five years. Needless to say, they were interesting times.

“We had about 3,500 birds,” she said. “We didn’t know a thing about chickens, but we sure had to learn.”

A question that frequently sprang to mind, especially when collecting eggs at 4am, was ‘what have you done?!’

Despite that, the Spaldings stuck with Paget Poultry for 15 years during which time they added to their stress by taking over Mrs Spalding’s parents’ store, Ord Road Grocery.

“It was a lot of work,” she said. “I don’t regret the day I walked away from that, especially the chicken farm. I love animals but 3,500 chickens was a lot of chickens to take care of.”

The 74-year-old grew up in Paget with her parents, Ernest and Alice Faries, and her two brothers.

Her father was Ord Road’s unofficial truant officer. He kept spare uniforms in the grocery store expressly for neighbourhood children he spotted skipping school.

“He’d take the child in the back, wash him up and make sure he went to [school],” Mrs Spalding said.

She left school at 15 and joined the Bank of Butterfield. It was while working there in 1963 that she met her late husband. Originally from England, he’d moved here to join the Police Service.

“My supervisor used to joke that he came in to open an account and got a wife instead,” Mrs Spalding said.

“He left for a few years then came back and worked with my father in the grocery store.”

The couple married in 1970. A year later their daughter Corrina Rego was born; Serana Markham followed in 1972.

“Everything happened really fast,” she laughed.

Once the Spaldings sold their businesses she joined Hamilton Pharmacy where she helped with the company’s payroll. And then her husband fell sick.

“He had an eight-year struggle with cancer,” Mrs Spalding said. “It wasn’t nice. He never gave up, and he never complained. I know he was suffering, but he would never say anything to us.”

She ignored the suggestion by PALS nurses that her husband be moved to Agape House, and kept him at home until the very end.

“I just prayed to God,” she said. “I said, ‘Please don’t let me be here by myself when he dies. Send me someone.’ At the exact same time my sister-in-law was saying to my brother in the United States, ‘Your sister needs me.’

“She came the next day. She said to me, ‘I’ll take care of the house, you do him’.”

Her husband died in 2006; Mrs Spalding continued caring for others.

At 70, she went on a mission trip to Nicaragua with Corner of Love Bermuda, a Christian organisation that also provides medical care and clothing to people living in remote villages in the Central American country.

“I wanted to introduce the people there to the Lord,” said Mrs Spalding, the group’s official “prayer warrior”.

“I pray for those who are suffering. I pray for the people going on missions.”

She went not realising the state that some of the villages around San Ramone were in. The villages themselves were surrounded by mud while the people lived in ramshackle huts, with mud floors and tin roofs. Parasites were rife and some of the children had worms visible under their skin or tummies bloated by worm infections.

“It was awful, awful,” she said. “Because of the water we had to be careful not to even open our mouths in the shower. You never know.”

And yet the people they met always greeted them with a warm smile.

“They were grateful for everything we did,” Mrs Spalding said.

Her job was to hand out clothing but she couldn’t help sneaking off to play with the village children whenever she could.

“They would get so excited when they saw a football,” she said.

On her second trip two years ago she took along her 16-year-old granddaughter, Sydney Rego.

“She loved it,” Mrs Spalding said. “At the end though she got tearful. She said, ‘We’re going home now but those people have to live this every day.’”

By then the political climate under president Daniel Ortega was so dangerous that Corner of Love instead travelled to Costa Rica where they helped Nicaraguan refugees crossing the border.

Mrs Spalding is now saving for a return trip.

“It costs so much to get down there,” she said. “My granddaughter keeps asking when we’re going back.”

In the meantime, she’s busy with her four grandchildren and with the youth groups she runs at Paget Gospel Chapel with her daughter Corrina.

“I love youth ministry,” Mrs Spalding said. “I really enjoy it. We have children coming from all walks of life.”

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

Elizabeth Spalding, left, doing volunteer work in Nicaragua (Photograph supplied)
Elizabeth Spalding (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Elizbaeth Spalding with a child in Nicaragua (Photograph supplied)
Elizabeth Spalding, centre, talking with children in Nicaragua (Photograph supplied)