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On Island Profile: Judy Bain

Jan. 30, 2006 — Judy Bain's life has always been focused on helping others. She is always doing something to help the mentally disturbed, the physically handicapped, those recovering and those who still live on the street.
It started in her home island of Trinidad, where she worked in rehabilitation programs at St. Anne's Hospital.
Her efforts broadened in scope 22 years ago when she came to St. Croix with her husband, Cedric.
Once on the Big Island, she worked seven years with the psychiatric unit at Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital, but her creativity has been spent in a variety of outreach programs.
She has worked in a Justice Department rehabilitation program helping those with mental problems or physical addiction adjust to life after serving time in a correctional facility.
She has also worked with the Labor Department in a program funded by grant money to help welfare recipients find a way in the work world.
Much of her energy in recent years has gone to an organization called 10,000 Helpers of St. Croix. For most years she says, "It was not funded at all."
But she and various other artists and artisans in recent years have been trying to find program funding and have big plans for the future.
For her part, Judy has been for many years making and selling what she calls Caribbean culture dolls, which also doubled as excellent holiday ornaments. The business was so good when tourism was good on St. Croix that she was able to train others in rehabilitation programs to make the dolls and earn a paycheck doing so. However, as tourism trailed off on St. Croix, she has shifted her focus from the small dolls to larger creations maybe three to four feet high.
About a year ago she was part of a mocko jumbie art exhibit at Walsh galleries and has since been focusing on these items.
The 10,000 Helpers of St. Croix had for a number of years funded some community projects by selling art and crafts at Memories of St. Croix. She says, "When we saw all the homeless people coming into the store looking for handouts. We began looking at how art could be used as a healing tool for them, as well as with children at risk. Although Memories of St. Croix closed last year, that hasn't deterred Bain and others in the organization. Instead it has spurred them to take on another ambitious challenge: trying to buy the building at 59 Queen Street in Christiansted and turn it into an artist gallery, art studios and a halfway house.
The third floor is to have five units, accommodating 10 people recovering from mental illness.
The second floor is to have retail space for a revived Memories of St. Croix and two art studios for workshop training.
The ground floor is to include a kitchen and dining area. She says the recovery program "will use the arts as the therapeutic medium and prepare the client for successful re-entry into the community." Bain envisions that clients will spend three months or less in various art programs presented by artists and artisans who are members of Memories of St. Croix.
At 67, she shows no signs of slowing down. To her many other activities this year she added teaching art at St. Joseph's High School.
She also proudly admits recently completing a yearlong creative writing correspondence course. She says, "I had to write an article every month. I didn't know if I could do it."
She says she took the course because all her dolls have a story. "I think I want to write a book and tell their stories."
She also found time recently to attend a course on raising bonsai plants. Then when she is not busy, she finds relaxation in gardening.
But still her focus always seems to go back to helping others. She says, "If we don't do something now, the problem will only get worse."
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