Home clean home
Although she retired as a housekeeper in the hotel industry over 20 years ago, 77-year-old Sylvia Alleyne explained that looking after the home and ensuring everyone was well fed was like “going from one job to another”. She is certainly not laid up, nor is she taking things easy.
She explained that she would prepare breakfast for her family each morning before embarking on her daily chores, whether in the house or the yard.
“When I retired, I was residing here in Eagle Hall but where I lived before, if you saw the size of the house, there wasn’t much to worry about – but here, by the time I’m done I would have to go back because I’m not as young as I once was.
“And with children who may have friends over, I would always need to be cleaning, so it’s from one job to another.”
Before she got into housekeeping, Alleyne said, she was a stay-a-home mum.
“I was very comfortable – my husband provided for me and my children very well but as everyone gets bigger, you find yourself reading books. And the house was small at the time, so I would finish cleaning very fast and I would sit down [so] I said to myself, I could be doing more than this.”
This was when she made the decision to study at the hotel school known as Richmond’s, located at what is now St Leonard’s Boys’ School. where she studied housekeeping among other things.
“It was funny because it took a while before we got back the results, so every day me and my friends would be waiting for the postman and when he did come, you didn’t want to open but when you did and found you were successful, you jumped up.
“But I’m glad I did because when it came to pension, no one could say that I didn’t contribute and could only receive old age pension.”
When she successfully completed her studies and was assigned to Blue Waters (currently Riviera Beach Apartment Hotel), Alleyne was married with three children and said that her children would stay with neighbours or family, but her daughter helped her out.
“I had to get to work for 7 o’clock and I lived in Bridge Gap at the time where there was there was no phone or gas, but God bless my daughter, she helped out me out on mornings and would always reach school late.”
She stayed at Blue Waters for seven years until the hotel became redundant, so she moved on to the Southern Palms Hotel where she worked diligently for 27 years until her retirement at age 65 – which she described as “a lifetime”.
Nonetheless, she recalled that working in the hotel industry was not easy and she often “bent over backwards”, which has worked out in her favour.
“There was a group from Canada that would come in at midnight, and you would need to get rooms ready for them and [management] wanted to roster the staff at midnight and I told them it couldn’t work because everyone has their children but since I had transportation I would work and go home and come back to do the midnight.”
She added, “When one thing play it, [another] play in, because I got a lot of money and tips from it. I had my privilege because I gave and I would bend over backwards. But when I was going to church, I would ask for time and they never refused. Sometimes I would even call if the church was having something and they would always help out.”
She explained that her time is now spent “trying to do good things and good deeds” and although they may not always work out, she continues to try.
Alleyne not only actively worships at St Leonard’s Church but is a member of the Mothers’ Union and also contributes to the Fragments programme, which she said “is one of the big things in my life”.
“We feed people and that’s how we started – feeding people in the community every last Friday in the month and we want to expand it but finance is always an issue.
“But we invite anyone from the public to come, because no one should be made to go hungry and the food is fit for a king – we set up knife and fork and everything.”
She added, “We have a very good programme and we do a very good job, if I may say so myself. I‘m happy to be a part of it because when you know where you came from, you can’t hide from it, and so many people depend on it – it’s amazing!”
Alleyne, who is currently a member of the Retired Members of the Barbados Workers’ Union Group, is also an active member of the Democratic Labour Party, not only in the League of Women but also on the committee for her branch – St Michael West-Central – which she said she is very proud of.
In a few months she will be 78, which she said does not matter because she “cannot hide from the coffin”.
“To be truthful, it does not matter; I’ve reached three score and ten and I made that thankfully, so I’m quite satisfied. I can’t hide from my coffin, if it’s what God wants me to do.
“I feel comfortable, I don’t complain, so for me it doesn’t matter if I reach 78 or not. I have legacies, I have the memory of my husband, my children, my grandchildren and lots of friends – and I think that if I’m still here, I’m still serving a purpose.”