SLALA – Another Year of Independence

THE St. Lucia Arthritis and Lupus Association (SLALA) held its 19th Annual General Meeting last week Thursday and a new executive was elected to serve for the next two years .

The association will be led by Dr. Cleopatra Altenor-Theobalds as Pesident and Dr. Celia Mc-Connell-Downes as Vice President. The Secretary is Mrs Nancy Gomez, Treasurer Mrs. Margaret Rudder-Mitchell with Assistant Secretary/Treasurer Mrs. Nicole Louis. The three floor members are Mrs Lenita Auguste, Mrs Christine St. Mark and Ms. Eyonthe Husbands.

The Immediate Past President, Dr. Celia Downes expressed her gratitude to the outgoing executive and desire to see even greater involvement of members in the association. She especially encouraged all members to enroll in “Viv Byen”, the six-week chronic disease self-management workshops that the association has been spear heading since its re introduction in 2014. She praised the efforts of Mrs Jacqueline Atkinson, the programme coordinator as well as Viv Byen leaders for continuing to persevere in volunteering to provide these life-changing workshops to all St. Lucians, not just those with rheumatic conditions.

The association engaged in numerous fund raising activities including several musical soirees, Christmas parties (2015 and 2016), a Gospel Concert in 2016, cake sales and flea markets. Their fundraising efforts were augmented by generous donations from several corporate sponsors as well as from Mr and Mrs Llewelyn Xavier, through funds raised from the Artravaganza Benefit auction and sale held in March 2016. These funds have gone to fulfilling the need for training more leaders on island. One training was done in 2015 in Soufriere and a second in Vieux- Fort in 2016. This makes it possible for persons in these parts to have access to Viv Byen workshops and make a positive difference in their lives. Between 2015 and 2016 there were 13 workshops done including a “men only” session in Mon Repos which was very successful. Viv Byen now forms an integral part of international management guidelines for people with chronic diseases.

In May 2016, SLALA held a half day Lupus Conference for medical professionals, SLALA members and the general public which was successful in bringing about awareness of lupus and reinforcement of principles of management for clinicians and patients alike. SLALA continued to be a presence at most health fairs and to make itself available to the public for information and assistance to people with arthritis, lupus and related diseases.

A release from the association said: “SLALA has had, and continues to have the great support of its founder Dr. Amanda King and many other persons who have been with the association through the years. The Baileys have hosted and helped with planning all of musical fund raisers, and we thank them and their choirs, JUSTUS and Evergreen. SLALA was fortunate to have the talented and beautiful,Derede Williams write and record a theme song for the Viv Byen programme which we look forward to launching.

“We also look forward to working even more closely with our patron Mrs Joyce Destang and thank her for her support through the Bay Gardens Resorts. SLALA is also eternally grateful to Mr Jeffrey Stewart of Stewart and Associates and his firm for auditing our association from inception. The Benedictine nuns had also hosted our annual Valentine’s dinner for many years and the British High Commission provided invaluable support in 2002.

“As we celebrate another year of our Independence, our message is one of Viv Byen, as in itself it promotes independence and empowerment, a belief that we can make a positive difference in our own lives. Viv byen has been shown to reduce the amount of sick leave employees take, the number of visits to health centres and hospitals, reduced hospital stay”.

SLALA continues to encourage all members and St. Lucians to do this wonderful programme. The association has spent close to EC$100,000 to bring this programme to St. Lucia and the volunteering spirit of all involved allows it to be brought to people in their communities for an administrative fee of EC$20 for the 6-week programme.

Said a SLALA spokesperson: “In a time where non-communicable diseases reign and the burden can be so overwhelming, our greatest contribution to St. Lucia is to keep this programme going, so that all may live more fulfilled, happier, healthier lives.

There are three workshops already being organised for this year. Starting February 27 at the Malgretoute Community Centre and another March 1 at Mon Repos community Centre with Catherine Augustin and Mary Sydney. The third will beat the Monchy Community Centre in March (date to be announced), led by Sandy Alcee and ZandraPerreira. Anyone interested in joining these workshops or getting more info on Viv Byen may call SLALA’s office 486-7000, Jackie 518-0195, Bay Medical Centre 459-2640, Dr. Downes, 453-0857.

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