2017: the year that saw the highest crime rate ever recorded in Saint Lucia, and some of the lowest unemployment rates in recent years. It was also the year our first female Governor General ended her record 20-year tenure and left behind some quality shoes to be filled. Hopefully her successor, if male, has been a participant in Men Running in Heels.
Parliament featured more than the usual dollops of scandalous allegations without follow-up action, much of it centred on a former STAR Person of the Year. Through it all the MP never lost his balance as, unscathed, he hit back at his tormentors sans filter, in the process creating lines destined to be remembered a long time from now. Could this be enough to earn him the STAR Publisher’s Person of the Year accolade?
Actually, being contradictory seemed to be the recurring theme during 2017. There was expressed disappointment in the announcement that Pigeon Point was under consideration as the site for a dolphinarium. But then it soon turned out that the soi-disant dolphin freedom fighters had had their own earlier secret plans to cage the marine mammals anyway, if a few nautical miles from Pigeon Point. MP Sarah Flood-Beaubrun’s promotion of wholesome family values seemed to rock the LGBT boats of all shapes and sizes but then, was the minister expected to campaign against statutes long accepted by the majority of Saint Lucians? Is there a politician alive who would dare do that in Saint Lucia?
But enough of the politics. This year’s STAR Person of the Year (readers’ choice) may be just what the doctor ordered, an icon with a difference. By reader account, the ideal STAR Person of the Year needed to be someone who has spread nothing but positivity amidst the country’s shaky and tense environment during 2017; someone who has especially made an impact on a vulnerable sector of society.
While Choiseul is widely known for peanuts, potatoes, plums and pottery, the village is destined also to be famous as the home of Christy Joseph. What makes this regular girl from this southern rural community worthy of special mention? An earlier article in this newspaper introduced her: Christy is completely blind and has been utilizing prosthetic glass eyes for several years. She is a living example of a person living with a disability but is in no way disabled. By all accounts, the absence of her fifth sense has actually heightened her ability to function as a regular person.
At age two, Christy was diagnosed with the eye disease that would cost her her vision. It must’ve been harrowing for her family, having to face the fact that their child would be denied the gift of sight. Little did they know that Christy was by no means your ordinary human being; that yes, she was destined to be some kind of a supergirl.
When she was enrolled in the Reunion RC Primary School near her home in Choiseul, Christy easily blossomed. Every child has issues adjusting upon entering kindergarten, but having to deal with the lack of the necessary amenities to minimize the limits of your disability makes it even harder. It will come as no surprise that those who knew Christy at the time came to see her as a miracle child determined, despite her presumed handicap, to push through and succeed in spite of obstacles. The appointment of an itinerant teacher to Christy enabled her to become the best version of herself. Teachers at the Reunion RC Primary School spoke highly of her and her uncanny ability to recognize every member of staff as well as the students.
When one sense does not function normally, the other four pick up the slack. Or so many believe. Christy can recognize people by their scent, the sound of their footsteps, and could easily catch up to Dale Elliott in a game of catch on the Untold Stories episode ‘Kids in Sight’.
Being from Choiseul myself, and having once gone to the same primary and secondary schools she attended, meeting Christy was for me a privilege. Choiseul has developed a reputation for its crafts people; its potters may create a sense of awe. But what makes our celebrated supposedly handicapped daughter of the soil super special in her circumstances is her irresistible charm; her wit and obvious self-confidence. It is impossible to have been in her company even for a few minutes and not come away absolutely inspired.
In an interview with Christy’s itinerant teacher Shermie James-Darcheville, she spoke with obvious pride and exhilaration of Christy’s exceptional grades in her first term at the Choiseul Secondary School. Christy had herself informed me of her accomplishments and I recalled being amused at the thought of so many people – seemingly blessed but unappreciative of their own good fortune – who might have dismissed Christy simply because she seemed different. But there she was in front of me, having easily broken through the barriers of societal ignorance, her disability notwithstanding. Teacher Darcheville expressed much admiration for Christy’s ability to find her way around the compound at her annual Space Camp experience, a difficult task for most other visually impaired young people.
Perhaps, if it were not for the prosthetic eyes, even I might have questioned if she was really blind. Her glasses, worn simply for aesthetic purposes, make it even harder for some to fully come to terms with her disability. If she feels disadvantaged in any way, Christy certainly does not outwardly express it. In Tianah Foster’s valedictorian speech at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, she stated in the most definite of terms that we are never lacking resources; we are simply lacking resourcefulness. Christy is a living example of this. Beyond her inability to visually see her surroundings, I am positive that she has created her own working image of what she would like the world to be –something some of us wish we could do.
Christy Joseph is an inspiration, a role model, a local hero – to the differently abled and to the more fortunate. Could there be a better person to look up to than Christy? A large number of STAR readers, online and elsewhere, consider her story worthy of special attention. Christy Joseph is living testimony that individuals with disabilities are still people, and, with encouragement from their communities, can go where few have gone before. We congratulate Christy for her strength of will, her guts, her courage. We are also proud to join readers who voted her Person of the Year 2017!