Sylvia Ferdinand, affectionately known as ‘Ms Ferdie’, has irrefutably had a profound and positive impact on hundreds of past and present-day students of the St Martin’s Secondary School (SMSS).

For close to six decades, ‘Ms Ferdie’ not only provided an affordable meal for students of the SMSS, but impacted their lives in ways that kept them on the ‘straight and narrow’– even giving some early lessons in business and integrity.

In addition to raising three sons of her own, she nurtured and looked after the hundreds who passed through her humble business place on the road to Kingstown Park, as though they were her own.

And so, following on an idea that was first pitched by Grant Connell, lawyer and past student of SMSS, the St Martin’s Past Students Association (SAMPASA), decided to officially recognize ’Ms. Ferdie’ for the indelible and uplifting impact that she had and continues to have on the students of SMSS.

Towards this end, an official ceremony was held on September 18, at ‘Ms. Ferdie’s shop.

‘Ms Ferdie’ is expected to celebrate her 91st birthday in October, however, according to President of SAMPASA Ronnie Daniel, it was felt that she should be honoured now and not then.

“As we look around society, we do not do a good job of celebrating the generations before us. There are persons who do it quietly and we thought that this was something that we were compelled to do,” Daniel said.

“Students at the St Martins’ Secondary School have benefitted immensely from her generosity, and we needed to do this not next month, but now,” he continued.

‘Ms. Ferdie’ was presented with a plaque and a donation from a former student of the SMSS of a meal for two, compliments of Basil’s Bar.

Remembering Ms. Ferdie’s kindness

Donnie Collins, radio personality and past student, was among the many to have benefitted from ‘Ms. Ferdie’s’ benevolence.

“It was an amazing thing that an established business would extend credit to a 12-year-old,” Collins recalled, elaborating that when he entered SMSS in 1987, his daily spending money was S2.00.

Collins said that he learned about ‘Ms. Ferdie’ from classmates who were residents of Paul’s Avenue, and who introduced him to a glass of mauby and a cheese sandwich – all of which cost $1.

He added, “…. even if you did not have the $1, and you missed a few days, because you did not have money, on returning she would question you: “where were you?’”

Collins admitted, “If it was not for ‘Ms. Ferdie’, I would have gone hungry.”

Another past student, businessman Martin LaBorde, shared his experience of benefitting from ‘Ms. Ferdie’s’ kindness, recalling that he worked for her between 1970 and 1972 twice per week, and collected $2.50.

According to Laborde, $1.25 went to his mom and he kept the other $1.25 for himself.

He admitted to learning a lot about business from ‘Ms. Ferdie’. However, he remembered most of all, the glass of mauby and the bread and sausage he received for lunch on Saturdays – which was a luxury for some in those days.

“That made an impact on my life, I will forever be grateful to ‘Ms. Ferdie’ for the things she instilled in me,” LaBorde said.

All about people

And as for the how her sons view her life’s endeavours, Dr. Julian ‘Jules’ Ferdinand, her second son and SMSS past student who is a Management Consultant, Motivational Speaker and Newspaper Columnist, described his mother as an exceptional person – one who has never been driven by material wealth.

“She has always had a soft spot for people, especially those who were disadvantaged,” Dr. Ferdinand said.

He recalled the days when SMSS students flooded his mother’s shop for lunch, and how with very little help she was able to tend to them all and ensure that they got back to school on time.

“She was a mother to many, and was concerned about investing in people,” he added.

Source : The Vincentian by Dayle Dasilva

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