MONA JOHNSON PRATT, born in Tunapuna on August 22, 1962, attended Tunapuna Anglican School and then St Augustine Girls’ High School and St Augustine Secondary, and thereafter The University of the West Indies. She died in Nassau, Bahamas, on September 7. She had lost consciousness at home and was hospitalised, being diagnosed with a brain haemorrhage on September 1, the day I arrived in Nassau.
Just a week before, this dedicated secretary of the TT/Bahamas Association had organised a grand function in Nassau to celebrate TT's 61st anniversary of independence.
In 1990, I was director of the Hugh Wooding Law School Legal Aid Clinic when the visionary Prof Maureen Cain of UWI, St Augustine, my fellow member of the UWI Women and Development Studies Group, spearheaded the opening of a Social Work Unit in the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences to provide training locally for social workers.
Prof Muzaale was hired from Uganda to build the unit. Prompted, no doubt, by the beloved, late Cain, Muzaale visited my office with a request that I become a practicum teacher in the programme. I needed no persuasion, as I considered myself a lawyer with my heart in social work. Muzaale saw the correlation between social work and the law and wanted to give social work students the experience of working in a legal environment. I thought this would be equally beneficial to our law students, who would see a link between law and social work.
I had had no formal training in social work and he offered to provide me with training as a practicum teacher, which I found useful, even though I was a graduate of Mausica Teachers’ College. He also promised to send me his best final-year students.
Mona was my first social work student. It was a great pleasure to work with her. She set the bar high for my subsequent students, including Dr Maria Gomes, Marie Hinds and Norma James. I was like a proud mama when Mona graduated with her bachelor’s degree in social work with first class honours.
When Mona informed me that she was emigrating to The Bahamas, I regretted that we would lose such a great asset. When she told me the reason, I asked her if she could not have fallen in love with a "Trinbagonian." “Ms Ahye!” she protested and we laughed heartily. Mona married well-known sportsman and coach Peter Pratt, became a great mother to their son, Jamie, and a doting grandmother.
In 2002, when I joined the staff of the Eugene Dupuch Law School in the Bahamas, Mona shared with me her disappointment at not being given an opportunity to practise in her field. She was not daunted, however, and went on to carve her own path to excellence.
I learnt from Clive Guy, my successor in title at the law school and president of the TT/Bahamas Association, of Mona’s passion for helping people in need, especially children, and her sterling contribution to the Bahamas community. He shared her stories, as related below.
Mona later acquired a master’s degree in social work and a degree in theology and taught for many years at Nassau Christian Academy, eventually becoming head of the teaching department, where she was an inspiration to staff and students. Students suspended from other schools were sent to the Christian Academy and under Mona’s loving care excelled. This resulted in both the children and their parents pleading for the children to remain there.
She was active at the Christ Community Church and became a deaconess. She was appointed to head the church’s pantry ministry which provided food to needy members of her church and the wider community. When Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas in 2019, Mona personally supervised delivery of supplies for Trinidadians/Tobagonians and others in the Family Islands.
When the covid19 pandemic caused many to lose their source of income, Mona galvanised into action the Trinidadian/Tobagonian community through her church and the TT/Bahamas Association. She provided food hampers, money and even cell phones to call family members in Trinidad. When the airports reopened, she secured free airline tickets for many to go home.
She mothered a number of UWI students from the Caribbean who were studying in The Bahamas, providing meals, advice and always encouraging them to go to church. Many can attest to her warm hospitality.
Once, when she accompanied to the airport some Trinis who were returning home, she met a family who was travelling to the Cayman Islands with a gravely ill child, who was scheduled for surgery. Their flight had been postponed to the following day. Mona took them to her home to overnight, fed them and returned them to the airport the following day.
She kept in touch with them and when her own grandchild was diagnosed with a serious medical problem, she contacted them to put her in touch with the hospital in the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands hospital recommended that the surgery be done in India. It was performed free of cost, with Mona and her family receiving free board and lodging there. This clearly demonstrated that, at times, kindness brings its reward.
Mona was an angel into whom God had breathed life in Trinidad and then transported on airplane wings to The Bahamas to bring hope and joy to many there, who were suffering physically, mentally and psychologically and to provide renewed educational opportunities for those who were slipping through the cracks and were considered failures. God saw that His work through her was done and has called her home.
When she collapsed at home, never regaining consciousness and breathed her last breath after seven days, we were left to marvel at the wonder of God, who, through Mona’s life of service in His name, taught many lessons of love for our fellow men. We learned also that when we pray “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” we must believe and live that prayer. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.
(Mona’s funeral takes place in Nassau on Saturday.)
Hazel Thompson-Ahye is an Independent senator