Sandrina Davis - Paying it forward

Sandrina Davis - Paying it forward


Monday, November 30, 2020

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SANDRINA Davis frequently benefited from the goodwill of others during her formative years. Though her parents were not well off, the little girl from Franklyn Town in Kingston learned quickly that the better she performed academically, the more assistance she would receive towards her development. This not only pushed her to be 'extra' in school while she attended Convent of Mercy Academy 'Alpha', but it also motivated her to pay it forward by giving as much as she can to others. Now serving as the country director for the International Samaritan non-profit organisation in Jamaica, Davis has made compassion her career.

“I have been a recipient of charity all my life, in primary school, the Kiwanis Club of Kingston supported my school expenses; in high school, my church and my classmates offered support,” she told All Woman. “I vowed that whenever I was able I would help others the same way that I was helped.”

But even while she aspired to help others, as many do, Davis did not imagine that charity would become her career. Initially she wanted to become a lawyer, but that dream was shattered when her mother told her in no uncertain terms that she did not want her to go down that path.

“When I was about eight years old my mom and I were downtown and as we walked past the courthouse, I pointed to the building and told my mother I would be working there in the future. With her limited knowledge of law, she scolded me saying that she did not work so hard for her child to defend criminals,” she remembered.

“Growing up, I used to think that charity work was for those who have already made their millions,” Davis shared. “But there comes a point where you can't divorce passion from purpose.”

With law off the table, Davis was unsure of what exactly she wanted to do for a living, but she still needed to make ends meet. Davis obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Technology, and started her professional life as a customer service representative with Advanced Integrated Systems Ltd.

It was in 2007 that she realised that she did not have to be wealthy to make a difference.

“I attended the Jamaica Cancer Society's Relay for Life that year, and I was concerned that not enough young people were there, so I started Cancer Conscious Youth. This is a team of young people who raise funds every year for the cancer society, and also engage in other activities to create awareness about the cancer cause,” she explained.

After landing a job at the Heart Foundation of Jamaica in 2012, Davis became more exposed to careers in charity, and saw how her passion could become her full-time purpose.

“I was in admin at the time, but just watching the staff trying to help people to make healthier choices, and educating Jamaica about heart health, I was inspired,” she said. “Just seeing how passionately the management team worked, and how the medical team treated every patient like a family member, I started getting involved, even in the things that weren't job-related.”

It came as no surprise that, with her unreserved love for people, Davis' next professional role was general manager of St Patrick's Foundation, where she stayed until last year when she stepped into her current position with International Samaritan.

“We work hand-in-hand with persons living in and around garbage dump communities, the end goal being to help them break out of poverty,” she said of her organisation's mission. “Presently, we serve the community of Riverton. We focus on scholarships, medical missions, safe water solutions and housing improvements. We support 75 students with full scholarships.”

But Davis confessed that regardless of how much she has given, she is never satisfied in thinking she has done enough. Last year she was a finalist in the US Embassy Women's History Month Grant pitch competition, from which she received a US$20,000 grant for a project. She used the opportunity to empower women.

“I conceptualised the 'My Body My Responsibility' project, which targeted women and young girls within Seaview Gardens and its environs,” she shared. “This project fostered change in behaviour and attitude among young women and girls about reproductive health and sex in order to prevent and alleviate the problems of teen pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.”

Being a full-time mother of an adolescent son, and having returned to the University of Technology to read for her Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Marketing in 2016, and with more people becoming vulnerable and needing assistance because of the pandemic, Davis shared that it is not always easy to keep pouring out love.

“It is a lot of work, but I think what makes the difference is that if you know in your heart that you are rightly placed, then it doesn't matter how difficult it is. You are always going to find the energy to push through,” she said.

She is motivated to continue planting good seeds, by the knowledge that at least some of them will eventually bloom.

“You can't save everybody, but just the fact that some of the lives that we meet everyday are going to be greater than we've ever been, that is what gives me all the fire that I need,” she said fiercely.

Davis, who is also a part of the Kiwanis Club of Friends Across Borders and an active member of the Franklyn Town New Testament Church of God, is content in knowing that she is fulfilling her life's purpose by being of service to others. In her small acts of kindness, she is helping to change the world.

“I would want a world where addresses and bank balances never affect or restrict access to quality education, healthcare and standard living conditions,” she said passionately. “I have met so many people over the last decade, and one thing that stands out is that we are all the same, except that some of us had better opportunities. I know I can't save the world but I really believe change is a partnership. If each one tries to help someone, regardless of how small the deed, the ripple effect can be life-changing.”

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