Regional

Manchester mother banks on empowerment opportunities, second chances

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND
Observer staff reporter
sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, August 12, 2019

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PORUS, Manchester —Porus resident Stacey-Ann Johnson, now in her early 40s, recalls that after completing her secondary education her life and career paths were marred by uncertainty.

Back then, she was hindered by a lack of awareness about what opportunities were available to her and there was no support to formulate a structured plan.

However, shortly after becoming a mother, her inner drive to continuously aim for a direction that would be beneficial for her and her children was strengthened.

Today, she pursues small entrepreneurial ventures to earn an income but has not lost sight of ways she can grow personally and professionally.

Johnson, who spoke to the Jamaica Observer Central at a recent information fair at the Trinity Baptist Church in Porus, said she was taking the time to enquire about certification for her son who did training at the Ebony Park HEART Trust/NTA.

She was also seeking information from the national training agency on how to get certified for hairstyling skills, which she had acquired informally.

“I think (HEART) is a good place for parents to send their children. The thing I like about HEART is that when you feel like life is done, you can go there,” she said, noting that she had an unsuccessful attempt previously to enrol in HEART's hospitality programme.

The mother of seven said that her opportunities for learning and growth also come from being a member of the Porus Primary Parent Club, which has helped her to be more patient with her children.

As she made the rounds to get information from the different agencies on the church grounds and speaking with other bodies such as the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA), Johnson said that though it may be “rough”, children should never be deprived of an education.

Representatives of a number of agencies as well as volunteers provided guidance and help for the public at the information fair.

Among them were representatives of the Registrar General's Department, Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences & Child Abuse (CISCOA), the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Manchester Health Department, the Ministry of Health and Wellness' Jamaica Moves campaign, and an attorney who gave legal guidance to people.

The event was an initiative of the Ackee Tree Group, which is a charitable body made up of people with ties to Porus and its environs.

Hopeton Brandford, the founder of the group and a native of Porus, works in the legal field, human resources, and as an educator abroad.

He told the Observer Central by phone from California, that the information fair was thought of because it is a way to make life easier for residents in rural communities, who may experience difficulties with regular occurrences, such as registering a child and deaths.

“(Residents) can access the information to make them more empowered and enhance their quality of life,” said Branford.

He said that through the group, people have benefited from scholarships and legal assistance and that plans are in place to provide medical assistance as well as personal and professional development programmes.

The information fair involving different agencies was being done for the first time by the Ackee Tree Group.

Residents like Johnson believe that it is a service that is needed within communities and should be replicated.

“No one talk to me like they don't want to hear me,” said Johnson, as she reflected on her interaction with the agency representatives.

While residents did not come out in their numbers, a few, at various points during the day, tried to benefit from having the convenience of the services in the community.

Claudia Morant-Baker, councillor for the Porus Division, operator of an early childhood institution, a justice of the peace, and a member of Ackee Tree Group, said the occasion allowed her to serve as well as gain relevant information.


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