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Remembering a safe haven

Positive impact: Timothy Sousa, left, and Eugene Stovell were once helped by The Haven, the predecessor to today’s Teen Haven (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

When the wrecking ball hit The Haven in 2000, Eugene Stovell and Timothy Sousa felt crushed. The building was once their refuge, Mr Stovell in the 1950s when it was a children’s home, and Mr Sousa in 1981 when it was a home for young mothers and their children. The Haven’s legacy lives on today, in Teen Haven now on Happy Valley Road in Pembroke. Teen Haven celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, but its roots go back almost 70 years. In honour of the milestone, The Royal Gazette talked with Mr Stovell and Mr Sousa.

As a young child Eugene Stovell was always running away. He didn’t get on well with his mother and preferred to wander Bermuda on his own.

He was one of eight children and his mother didn’t have a lot of patience.

In 1955, when he was 7, his mother packed him off to The Haven, run by teacher Millicent “Millie” Neverson.

“I never really liked The Haven,” said Mr Stovell. “I wasn’t fond of the place, but Mrs Neverson was fond of me. The other fellows used to call me Mrs Neverson’s pet.”

Mrs Neverson, originally from Antigua, came to Bermuda in 1921 to teach at The Berkeley Institute.

She founded The Haven in 1948 and was known for her devotion to young people.

But her kindness couldn’t stop Mr Stovell’s wanderings.

“Someone would find me and bring me back,” he said. “I would go in the front door and be out the back door in a flash.”

At the time, most of the boys there were about 17 or 18, and he was the youngest.

When he wasn’t on the lam, he became close to a boy called Lauren who was 14.

“Lauren was home all day, because he suffered badly from asthma,” said Mr Stovell. “We guys used to skylark a lot and he’d get out of breath.”

Mr Stovell was later transferred to the Sunshine League.

“After I got there I learnt that Lauren had died,” said Mr Stovell. “They wouldn’t let me go to his funeral. That really put me back.”

He later moved back to The Haven for a spell when he was older.

It would be remiss to say that Mr Stovell’s life was turned around at The Haven.

“That took many years,” said Mr Stovell. “After a while you have to come to some conclusions for yourself. Other people can facilitate, but you have to do a lot of stuff on your own.

“What the Haven did was open my eyes to different perspectives on life, which I probably didn’t have when I lived at home.”

The Haven also gave him a lifelong appreciation for architecture.

“It was a real shame when they knocked it down to build Berkeley,” said Mr Stovell. “It was a beautiful building. I’ve done a lot of research on it through the years.”

According to Mr Stovell the building was first built by the Hallett family in the 1890s.

Unfortunately, two of the Hollis children died there mysteriously.

The mother was so distraught the family moved to another home shortly after building The Haven.

Although his days at The Haven weren’t happy, Mr Stovell did visit Mrs Neverson when he grew up.

He attended a reunion in 1973 with her and another veteran teacher, Edith Crawford. Timothy Sousa, CedarBridge Academy deputy principal, lived at The Haven more than 20 years after Mr Stovell.

He was 4 at the time and his mother needed a place to stay.

“I remember being little and being moved from one place to the other,” he said. “We were always moving. My mother worked exceptionally hard. She worked at the Shopping Centre as a cashier for more than 20 years.”

“In her early twenties she couldn’t afford a place of her own so we ended up at Teen Haven. She was 19 when she had me.

“To be honest I don’t fully know why we were there as it’s something we’ve never talked much about.”

Mr Sousa and his mother lived there for about a year and the other residents became like family.

“There was another boy there I called my cousin,” he said. “His mom and my mom were good friends and still are to this day.

“Some of the other ladies there became god parents to my younger brothers and sisters.”

At the time the place was run by matron Marie Jackson.

“She was a very stern woman but very loving,” said Mr Sousa. “She cared about the children as though we were hers. I grew up with her stepson Dwight.”

Mrs Jackson died in 2012.

“Going to her funeral was like a reunion because many of the residents from her time were there,” said Mr Sousa. “She was well loved.”

He also remembered the educator Olga Scott working with his mother at Teen Haven.

“As a teacher, I went up to Mrs Scott at the Outstanding Teen Awards, a few years ago,” he said. “I said Mrs Scott I just want to reintroduce myself. My name is Timmy. She said Timmy Sousa? My jaw dropped. I was amazed that she could just pull my name out like that.”

He was working as a teacher at the Berkeley Institute when The Haven was torn down.

“It was a bit crushing because that building was a big part of my young life,” he said.

At CedarBridge, Mr Sousa is not shy about sharing his past with his students.

“There is no embarrassment behind it,” he said. “It is just who I am.

“A big part of what drives me to stay in that profession is my history.

“I want my students to understand that some of us come from beginnings that are not as prestigious as others, but all of this shaped me.”

Mr Sousa said he is very grateful to The Haven and the positive impact it had on his life.

For more information contact Teen Services by e-mailing teenservices@northrock.bm or calling 292-4598