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Lady Hochoy Home – 60 years of service

“What does love look like?
It has hands to help others.
It has feet to hasten, to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.”
—Saint Augustine

The driving force in the establishment of the Lady Hochoy Home was Lady Thelma Hochoy. After a visit to the House of Refuge in St James, (now known as the St James Infirmary) Lady Hochoy and Rose Miles, an American social worker, saw the need to have a separate space for children and young people with intellectual disability.

At the time of their visit, the children were housed with destitute adults and other adults with mental health issues.

Hochoy, along with Fr Casimir O’ Loughlin OP, the first president of the Trinidad and Tobago Association for Retarded Children (TTARC*) gathered a group of like-minded individuals who worked assiduously to form the Association in 1958.

The TTARC was incorporated by Act of Parliament No 15 of 1961. Thus, the Association is the parent body of all the Lady Hochoy Homes. The Executive of this new and fledgling association were deeply involved in the planning and construction of the Lady Hochoy Home, Cocorite. After many months of meetings and fundraising events, the building was erected in 1961.

The Corpus Christi Carmelite Sisters were tasked with the daily management of the Home, a task they embodied earnestly. On March 5, 1961, four pioneering Carmelite Sisters viz: Mother Joan Teresa, Srs Mary Raphael, Madeleine, and Ann Bartholomew moved into the completed Lady Hochoy Home.

The blessing of the house was done by a young chaplain by the name of Fr Anthony Pantin CSSp who continued to be chaplain to the Sisters and residents of the Home until he was ordained as Archbishop of Port of Spain in 1968.

He was the faithful spiritual director of the Home, and even as Archbishop, he would drop-in to check in on the residents.

On March 20,1964, the Rose Miles Administration Building of the Lady Hochoy Home was opened by Hochoy and blessed by Count Finbar Ryan OP, Archbishop of Port of Spain. As Sr Bertill Dean O Carm mentioned in her address for the 60th Anniversary Mass held on Wednesday March 10, “The daily archives make for interesting reading on how it all began.”

Meticulous care was taken to record the daily events. Through the influence of Lady Thelma Hochoy and the Prioress General of the Carmelite Sisters, they were able to garner help, not only from the other Carmelite Houses, but also from businesses and members of the medical community.

On March 20, 1961, the first contingent of 24 children ranging in ages from one to 22 years arrived from the House of Refuge. They were accompanied by Miles, the matron, and nurses. Four children from that first contingent are still in residence at the Lady Hochoy Home today. That is indeed a milestone. The Home was the first of its kind in the Caribbean.

In April 1961, the Home received a group of ten girls and boys from St Ann’s Hospital. By July 1961, there were 79 children in residence, with another contingent of children accepted from St Ann’s Hospital and children from the wider community.

Through the years, the Executive of the TTARC, Carmelite Sisters, and members of staff have worked tirelessly on behalf of the special children. At its zenith, the Lady Hochoy Home housed around 120 residents.

Over the years, the Lady Hochoy School, Occupational Therapy and Early Intervention Department were added to the Home.

In 1994, the TTARC opened the Lady Hochoy Vocational Centre at Dunlop Drive, Cocorite. This centre caters for young persons in a variety of sheltered workshop programmes.

The Lady Hochoy Home is a landmark in the Cocorite area and has survived floods and fire. The “Home” as it is affectionately called, is committed to the work of empowering persons with intellectual disability to ensure that they achieve their full potential for integration into a well-informed society.

We are thankful for the vision and foresight of Hochoy, Miles, Fr O’ Loughlin, and other committee members for their tireless work. As the Lady Hochoy Home enters its 60th year, we look forward to being a part of the changing landscape; we celebrate the past and we look forward to the future with the hope that persons with intellectual disabilities will be loved and supported to live their best lives in an inclusive Trinidad & Tobago.

In doing so, it ensures that the legacy of Lady Thelma Hochoy lives on.

*Editor’s Note: The TTARC is in the process of changing its name to replace the word ‘retarded’.