In his prime, Hilbert Baby Osbourne was a strong and robust man, standing firmly on his own two feet.
As a boxing champion, he could defend himself, and he travelled extensively abroad to represent Barbados.
Today, Hilbert is a shell of his old self, a frail, defenseless elderly gentleman, hardly able to walk on his own.
But it is the squalid condition in which he lives that is most upsetting to neighbours and those familiar with the pride with which he carried the country’s flag.
The place he calls home is a shed without a roof in the backyard of a house in Grazettes, St Michael. In there is nothing but a makeshift bed, with just a mattress. He has no toilet facilities and no kitchen to prepare a meal.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY Monday, one of his neighbours, Glenfield Cadogan was in tears as he spoke of the former boxing champion’s living conditions and the treatment Osbourne receives from those who should be caring for him.
“It is very frustrating and tiresome to see a man that has done so much for Barbados being abused by his family . . . . I hear the abuse and it hurts my heart, it makes me cry sometimes. I don’t want him there for Christmas. It would be the biggest [gift] I would get to see him not be there.
“It’s really heartbreaking to see that . . . seniors can be in a position and their families don’t look after them. He’s not my father, but it hurts me,” Cadogan said.
Cadogan still sees Osbourne as the champion he once was, not only as a boxer, but as one of the pillars on which modern Barbados was built.
“He represented Barbados well. He used to tell us of all the places he travelled. He is one of the persons who helped to build Barbados.”
The observant neighbour said he was not aware of all the details of the problem that resulted in Osbourne having little more than the elements for a home.
However, he made reference to the former boxer’s drinking, which he said got worse in recent times.
“He might have been one that likes his drinks, but you can’t crucify him because he strayed away. All of us stray away at some point and he has a family that . . . should be able to help him.”
Cadogan said neighbours had been assisting Osbourne in the past, including one gentleman who has since died, who would bring the elderly man breakfast every morning.
However, he said hostility towards them by one family member put paid to that effort.
With Osbourne’s situation in mind, Cadogan pleaded with Barbadians to ensure seniors are not allowed to fall by the wayside when they can no longer take care of themselves.
“Barbadians need to be aware of seniors, persons that help to build our country from nothing to something. I would like Bajans to stop pushing the seniors in the gutter and taking what they work hard for. We are not our brother’s keepers anymore.
“We talk about Christmas, sharing and giving, but many are just about themselves. It would be the best gift I could get if I could not see him there Christmas Day,” he added.
Osbourne’s condition has attracted the attention of the National Assistance Board (NAB), with its chairman David Durant promising to do all he can to have the senior citizen moved from his current location.
Durant, a Government Senator, said the NAB had been in contact with Osbourne’s son and was awaiting a response before making arrangements to find the elderly man a comfortable home.
“We will continue to work to get Mr Osbourne away from here to get him into safe quarters where he can sleep at night without getting wet or even in the day where he can be fed,” the NAB chairman said.
“This is not right. Right now his body is frail. He is walking and almost falling over. That means he is weak and malnourished. We have to make sure we get food for him. So we have to get him somewhere where all the necessities can be provided,” he added.