Mercy is transformational
September 14, 2020
Deborah Christiana de Rosia
September 15, 2020

Sr Ruth Bridget Montrichard SJC

Sr Ruth Bridget Montrichard is a Sister of St Joseph of Cluny since 1968. She was born in Trinidad, on October 8, 1941 and is a teacher by profession. She enjoyed a rewarding teaching career that spanned over 15 years until she had an encounter that would change the trajectory of her life.

In 1974, Sr Ruth decided to do voluntary work organising the library with a fledging organisation called Servol Trinidad and Tobago (Service Volunteered for All), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which focuses on the education and self-development of at-risk children, adolescents, adults and communities through the teaching of job and life skills.

Sr Ruth inevitably succumbed and ended up devoting her life to the organisation. If as in Sr Ruth’s own words, the Cluny congregation was the source of her education and formation, then Servol certainly provided fertile ground for the manifestation of her care for others. Sr Ruth has been working with Servol now for 42 years.

Sr Ruth started as an instructor in the Women’s Training Programme and when Servol decided to build a large centre in Beetham Estate, one of the more socioeconomically depressed areas in Trinidad, she was asked to coordinate the exercise.

It is doubtful whether her teaching diploma or her Oxford Certificate had prepared her to direct the efforts of 93 apprentices and six instructors, but she invested in a pair of tall rubber boots and stood in the mud and slush of the Beetham to supervise the building of the centre and to see it commissioned in 1978.

By this time, her heart and talents were deeply rooted in Servol and she resigned her teaching post to work full-time with the organisation, as the first coordinator of the Beetham Life Centre.

In 1983, she was appointed to the Board of Directors of Servol Limited and in 1984 was nominated Deputy Executive Director, followed by the appointment of Executive Director.

At present, Sr Ruth is Chairman of the Board of Directors and epitomises what could be achieved through avid learning and building trusting relationships with others.

During her tenure at Servol, Sr Ruth has demonstrated her commitment to the development and implementation of programmes designed to alleviate poverty through the empowerment of children, adolescents, adults and communities who live in disadvantaged situations.

Respected and loved by all members of staff, she combines a no-nonsense approach to work with a deep compassion for human problems.

Locally, regionally and internationally, she developed relationships with the children and adults in these communities, negotiated with financiers, collaborated with incumbent governments, engaged the cooperation of private sector and NGOs, all in an effort to facilitate the realisation of the Servol vision.

In her interactions, she emulated founder Fr Gerard Pantin’s watchwords: “Never presume that you know the needs of people, ask them how they want to start, and take it from there.”

Even as she was affectionately referred to as the ‘Iron Lady’ by Fr Gerry, she was recognised by former Acting President and Senator Timothy Hamel-Smith for her concern for humanity that moved her “to seek out and to nurture the potential that resides in the heart of every human being to enable him to rise above daunting circumstances to be the best that he can be.”

She has penned a book entitled, SERVOL Faces the Eighties. Her writing focused on how Servol as an organisation transitioned from the 1970s into the 80s.

Sr Ruth has represented Servol at international conferences in Europe, the United States, South America, and the Caribbean. She has received the Inter-American Development Award in 2001 for Social Entrepreneurship, The Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow in 2002 and was inducted in the St Joseph’s Convent Hall of Excellence in 2007.

She was also the recipient of the 2010 National Republic Day Award at the 18th Annual Republic Day Award function for her longstanding contribution to national development in the areas of Social and Community work.

Noteworthy, in 1994 UNESCO honoured Servol for its work in the area of Early Childhood and Adolescent Development Programmes, listing it as one of the top 20 of its kind in the world.

Although, she speaks of her retirement from her current position as Chairman of the Board, the impact of her presence throughout the years continues to be experienced through the interactions of those whose lives she has touched within Servol.