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Guides pay tribute to stalwart

Rita Elaine Nicholls was born on November 7, 1920. Ms. Nicholls as she is called by all in the Girl Guiding family, lives at Georgeville, The Whim, St. Peter.

For almost 70 years, Miss Rita Elaine Nicholls has significantly impacted on the lives of young people in Barbados, through her involvement in teaching, Girl Guiding and the youth ministry at her church. Through these avenues, she has imparted academic and religious knowledge, practical life skills, appreciation of the local fauna and environment and when needed, provided a mother’s love and correction.

Nicholls attended the St. Peter’s Girls’ School. She then studied for her Cambridge Certificates and London Matriculation as a student at a private school run by a son of the soil, Mr. Husbands, father of the late, former Speaker of the House, K.N.R Husbands.

She subsequently completed two years at Erdiston College and gained her Teacher’s Certificate. She began teaching in her early 20s, teaching at many of the primary schools in St. Peter and St. Lucy. Some of her recollections include sharing her lunch with and helping to source school uniforms for needy children. Never married and having no children of her own, Nicholls dedicated her life to the development of children and communities.

An excellent, well-organised and strict teacher, she was promoted though the years and served as Deputy Principal at All Saints Primary School. She was appointed as the Deputy Principal at Boscobelle Primary School and held this post until her retirement in the early 1980s.

Nicholls was a member of 35th Guide Company at the St. Peter’s Girl School, one of the early Girl Guide companies formed in the northern part of Barbados, the Guider leader being the late Alma Parris. She was warranted as a Guider on May 28, 1963 for the Brownie Unit at the then St. Clement’s Girls’ School in St. Lucy.

That school was eventually amalgamated with the St. Clement’s Boys’ School to form the Ignatius Byer Primary School. Although the unit number was eventually changed, she has remained warranted and active at that unit for the past 47 years.

For decades, Nicholls has been the face of Guiding to all resident of the northern parishes. Adults from St. Lucy, St. Peter or St. Andrew describes her as the lady who used to drive the powder blue Morris Minor E93 – “the Guide Commissioner!” or the “Brownie teacher!”

Appointed District Commissioner for District 14 in 1980 she effectively executed those duties until 2002. Her duties included representing District 14 at the national level, mentoring Guiders, facilitating the launch of new Units and helping to keep the northern Units in operation. The last was particularly difficult due to unavailability of adult women to take on the leadership of the Units.

To address this need, Nicholls found many persons to help her run six Brownie Units for many years.Even at her age and no longer driving herself, she currently runs five Brownie Units, one each weekday afternoon at the Gordon Greenidge, Ignatius Byer, All Saints, Boscobelle and Selah Primary Schools – assisted by small teams of adult helpers.

In 1972, she gained her Caribbean Trainers Certificate for Guiding and trained adult leaders in Barbados, Trinidad and Greneda.

Outside of Guiding, Nicholls is a longstanding member of the Speightstown Methodist Church and to this day continues to teach Sunday School and Bible School. In addition to Sunday School, she actively participates in all aspects of spiritual development of the youth in church. Many persons will recall her sharing words of wisdom and compassion with them, always available and willing to lend a listening ear.

Her Christian stewardship extends to sharing the produce of her garden – she is still an avid farmer/gardener and produces most of her food from the ground (pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cassava, sorrel, pigeon peas, cane and mangoes). She frequently donates the fruits of her labour to her neighbours, former students, members of the Girl Guides Association and church harvests.

Rita Nicholls was honoured with the Barbados Silver Star for her selfless service to the youth and people of Barbados.

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