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St Helena’s top resource – Saints

It used to be that a first real induction to St Helena culture came via a small mail ship that bobbed along the Atlantic rollers and which Islanders called their lifeline.  The RMS St Helena galley was the ships beating heart.  Discussions about food over the long days at sea was obligatory.  By the arrival to James’ Bay, most visitors would have sampled their first St Helena curry, watched enough euchre (a popular card game) being played to grasp the rules, and heard enough Saint dialect to understand that “eerce” means yes, and practically everyone’s called a “lovey”.

Arriving here by flight doesn’t quite have the same effect but never-the-less , fewer time spent in travel means more time spent on Island.  The walk through arrivals and the ensemble of faces, paints a warm picture of how St Helena historically evolved from European, Asian, African and Chinese descent.

Driving is an experience, and one that requires much gesture. A toot of the horn is more an acknowledgement than a discourtesy. Waving to passing vehicles is habitual, something instinctively mirrored as is the greetings on the street.  Warm, friendly and old fashioned island hospitality – this is perhaps what resonates with Tourists, when they think of the Saints and the saintly culture.

How local hospitality extends to neighbour and community is less seen and less appreciated in fleeting visits. Purchasing is the practice, but bartering is not uncommon, and a dozen mackerel may be repaid with a favour or a gallon of potatoes when the harvest is ready. A few sprigs of parsley or a borrowed egg isn’t held to ransom either.

The spirit of the people has evolved to be one of kindness and goodwill.  There is no better example of this than a whole month allocated to cancer fundraising. Affected by this huge genetic and lifestyle killer, cancer is prevalent in the community.  Most people can ill afford to splurge, but when charity October comes around the efforts and contributions to charities such as the local cancer support and awareness charity is literally life altering.

Two such people are Colin and Marlene Yon, a couple at the heart of this charity which officially launched in 2006. The couple have served the charity throughout and are seen as community pillars.  Support is offered to local cancer patients and their immediate families, both financially and informatively. During the past 12 years the Group, a small dedicated team of volunteers pull together to devise the logistics of the various fundraising events, which elevates the bulk of their support funds.

The pink walk, themed dances, pink teas, quiz nights and coffee mornings sets the social calendar for the line up to peak season. But if there is one event that draws the districts together it would most certainly be a street parade.  There is one for Christmas eve, one for the Festival of lights and one for carnival. The parades attract the largest local crowds and the creative mirage of outfits, music and decoration is the ultimate expression of Saint resourcefulness.

October cancer carnival has evolved to something of a statement.  A statement of solidarity, community, culture and values. This years ‘spirit of the sea’ theme is expected to raise the event profile further and take costume design to another level.  “Saints are amazing people” says Mia, one of the working group members “and will give to the charity in some way, shape or form.”

 

 

For more information about the the upcoming events click here: http://sthelenatourism.com/events/

 

 

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