The New Today

Commentary

Sister Judy Williams -Thank you for being a woman like you

Judy Williams was an exemplary Grenadian. She was a defender of human rights, a staunch promoter and supporter of women’s rights, and primarily, she was a champion for the poor and the downtrodden here in Grenada.

Like Esther, the young Jewish woman in the Bible, Sister Judy dedicated her life to helping her people – Grenadian families, and families throughout the Caribbean region – break the cycle of poverty. And like Esther, Sister Judy was a woman for such a time as this.

It was not a surprise to us that Sister Judy was a social worker. Social workers will tell you that she did what good social workers do – she used her gifts and expertise to help others – thousands of individuals and families realise their God-given potential.

She was a treasure – she was the gift that kept on giving – and she gave the best of herself to everyone that crossed her path.

As founder and General Secretary of the Grenada Community Development Agency (GRENCODA) – she dedicated her life to ending poverty in Grenada. Thousands of families, including young people, have benefited from GRENCODA’s programs and services.

Her accomplishments and achievements also include the creation of the Grenada Legal Aid and Counseling Clinic. It’s the only institution offering free or affordable legal services in the history of Grenada – making legal services accessible to the poor and downtrodden.

Sister Judy’s vision and commitment to Grenada and Grenadians impacted the most vulnerable and the least visible among us.

As young women growing up in Grand Roy – the village that Sister Judy called home -we were able to witness her care, compassion, dedication, and generosity up close. She was a pioneer for gender equality, and stood up for the rights of women at a time when fighting for equality for all was cultural taboo.

Sister Judy spearheaded the creation of GrenFruit, one of the first all-women-owned cooperatives in Grenada. She gave unemployed women in our village the opportunity to manage and operate their own local agro-processing business. In addition, she identified dozens of Grenadian women to participate in a program that would break the male-only field of mechanics.

Graduates of this program went on to work as auto mechanics and had the skills they needed to become entrepreneurs and to open doors that were previously shut to them. The mechanic program put these young women on a path to self-sufficiency.

Judy Williams was a change agent. She understood what it took to achieve social and economic development in Grenada. Sister Judy made things happen and dedicated her life to making the world a better, kinder, and safer place for Grenadians experiencing poverty.

She was the tide that lifted all boats. She made us better for knowing her, for loving her, and for being able to bear witness to her passion, her perseverance, and her persistence as she fought tirelessly to achieve dignity for underserved communities in Grenada.

And being a woman of deep faith, she allowed her faith to guide her every step. Sister Judy walked by faith and not by sight and had an unclouded vision and a deep conviction of what it took to eradicate poverty in Grenada.

Her commitment to ending poverty precedes us. In the 1970s and 80s she was a leader of the Pope Paul Camp project and played a leadership role in the adult literacy program during the 1979-1983 period. Sister Judy was convinced that education for young people should not be limited to narrow academic pursuits.

She believed that young people should have options when deciding their life and career paths – leading to the creation of the New Life Organisation (NEWLO).

Sister Judy’s actions demonstrated her deep commitment to Grenadians of all levels of society, and specifically to rural young people here in Grenada.

We also saw Sister Judy’s dedication in action, after Hurricane Ivan devastated Grenada; she did not hesitate to act, she took swift action to ensure that everyone in our village and surrounding areas had what they needed during that difficult and challenging time.

She reached out to friends and colleagues outside of Grenada, pooled resources, put her skills and expertise as a social worker to work – and served her people during a time of great need. Her labour was always a labour of love.

Sister Judy was a great tree. Tall, elegant, compassionate, and caring! And like all great trees, she provided shade and shelter to the tired, the weary and the wandering.

She weathered many storms throughout her life. During those political, social and economic storms that came her way – she swayed but remained strong – bent but unbroken. Because like great trees, her roots run deep.

She was the stabilizing force that kept GRENCODA grounded for decades, and her legacy will keep it going for decades to come.

Sister Judy’s life was an example to all of us. As young girls and, subsequently, young women growing up in a rural community, she showed us what it meant to be bold, to be fearless, to pursue our dreams and to fight for causes that mattered to us – to never forget our commitment to make “home” better – that little village sandwiched between two big rocks, with a gentle river running in the middle – Grand Roy; to never forget our commitment to make our beloved Grenada the best that it can be – a Grenada where everyone thrives, regardless of party affiliation, education level or whether you lived in “town” or in “the country”.

And if Sister Judy were still with us, she would admonish us – to remember that our vision for the world we are creating should always include the poor, the downtrodden, and the dispossessed.

A great tree has fallen in our village – and the thud reverberates across the length and breadth of Grenada. The legacy of Sister Judy will live on in the lives she impacted throughout her life and career. And like Esther – we will always remember her sacrifices and her dedication to alleviating and sheltering Grenadians – her people – from the harshness of poverty.

Sister Judy, we will miss you – our village family will miss you – as well as the thousands of Grenadians who benefited from your grace and generosity.

May your soul rest in eternal peace, Sister Judy.

Yolande A. Cadore and Paulann Patterson