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Funeral of social activist today
The funeral service for Ivis Gibson, founder of the non-governmental organisation Families in Action (FIA), who died last Saturday after a long illness, takes place today at the Church of the Assumption, Maraval, at 10 am. Cremation will follow at the cinerary, Long Circular Road, St James. Born October 5, 1930, the sixth of 12 children of Roderick and Enid Stephens, young Ivis, while growing up in Tunapuna, volunteered to collect her family’s wartime rations. She would bring back their rations and inform them she was going back to collect the rations of others on her street who were too frail or otherwise unable to go themselves.
This child would grow up to found and manage Families In Action (FIA), a non-profit NGO devoted to counseling and supporting families and individuals with social, emotional and other problems. Gibson worked as secretary to the legendary Cyril Duprey at Clico as a young woman before migrating to England while her husband, Lunsford, was at university there. Not an idle person, she worked at several large corporations there and took advantage of the opportunity to further her own education in addition to raising three sons and two daughters. On her return to Trinidad, she worked at Berger Paints as company secretary, leaving eventually to start her own business, Personnel Limited, an employment agency.
A pivotal moment in her life came when one of her former employees murdered his mother while addicted to cocaine. She voiced her concerns to Jerome Boos, who directed her to the substance abuse group, Narcotics Anonymous, and its meetings. “I became very emotional while attending these meetings as I could not understand how a drug could alter someone’s mind to the extent where he would kill his own mother to satisfy his addiction,” Gibson said. She met Patrick Brown at one of these meetings and discovered they had the same mission, to help families. They sought other like-minded people and held several meetings at 82 Maraval Road, Newtown, which would become the office of Families in Action when it was founded in 1985. She was the managing director.
Gibson still ran her employment agency but found it increasingly difficult to balance the two obligations.
After four years of work with FIA, she eventually wound up the business and continued to serve her NGO.
In 1998, FIA attained the status of a charitable organisation and was incorporated as a non-profit, non-governmental organisation. The following year, Gibson was awarded the Public Service Medal of Merit of the Order of the Trinity (Silver) for her contribution to community development. Diagnosed with leukemia and a heart murmur, Gibson had suffered a stroke a year ago which left her constantly dizzy.
Her condition worsened and she was taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital Saturday morning but died while being treated. She is survived by her husband, Lunsford, to whom she had been married for 53 years, their five children and her extended FIA family.
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