COVID-19 made me give back to the community I left

COVID-19 has taught me that if we have some amount of courage, and if we are kind to others, then we will be able to see the world not as it is, but as what the world can be.

I left my community of 8 Miles, St. Ann at the age of 15 to go into state care, and my relationship with people there and my family was something I wanted to improve. When COVID-19 came I began seeking some assistance for them because I realise a lot of companies are donating to families, but focusing more on urban communities, and not rural ones like mine. Digicel Foundation were the first to reply to me and provided us with 11 boxes of essential items to distribute like rice, flour, cornmeal, corn beef, oats, bleach, soap etc.

My mentor Mikhailla Robinson was a major player in helping to carry out my project. She was responsible for transportation and the gathering of the items. I was feeling apprehensive going back, but she always manages to encourage me.

Speaking out and giving back

The reaction was even more amazing when I think of the backlash when I first reported my situation, where adults in the community maybe saw me as a troublemaker. But now I think the attitude has changed for the best because a lot of parents there are raising children in a so-called traditional way. That is where the view is that children should be beaten and not be allowed to speak up, but my situation has shined a little light.

There was a time when I perceived myself as unintelligent and spoke a lot of negative things about myself. But then I was able to use intrinsic motivation to uplift myself and just analyse things and outline certain goals that I want to achieve.

Not to boast but I think I am a role model for children there, because despite the fact that I wasn’t given the opportunity to attend school regularly I was the first to pass to St. Hilda’s, and then another girl got in soon after. Unfortunately, the community really places limitations on you and maybe I was able to provide motivation for others, which in turn has motivated me to achieve more.

Breaking through for my siblings

Being born into a poor family I have to open doors to for my siblings to get opportunities that I was deprived of. I want to make these large jumps to carry them with me, and because my success wasn’t predetermined. But my success is going to be for them to gain from.

If a 15-year-old girl from the community told me she was going through a similar experience, I would tell her that it wouldn’t be selfish to seek to advance herself first, because at that age she can’t carry her entire family on her shoulder. Also, to tell her to find as much internal motivation as possible because external motivation will fail you.

Be kind and have a lot of courage. A girl needs to have enough courage to step out in the public and voice what is happening to her, to put aside her pride and seek help. Also be kind because there are others out there who are going through even more adverse situations, and always try to leave a positive impact. You can turn all that negative energy around.

What is UNICEF doing?

This post is part of a series looking at how COVID-19 is impacting children and families and also people who are addressing their challenges. Post your #COVID19diaries story to social media and tag @unicefjamaica to be featured. For more information about our response to COVID-19 assisting government and non-governmental organisations to protect the rights of children, and to access resources for parents, visit our webpage dedicated to this emergency: uni.cf/covid19ja.

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