Nearly four decades ago when she was a baby, Jennifer Bartley-Blake was dumped in a garbage bin behind the old courthouse in May Pen, Clarendon.
She fought her way to success, and is now the proud holder of a Bachelor of Science in Midwifery degree from the University of Technology.
In an interview with The Beacon, Jennifer declared her strong disapproval of child abandonment.
“I think it’s wrong! Give the baby up for adoption or to some family member who is better able to take care of that child even though that also has its pros and cons,” she reasoned.
After being recovered from the garbage, Jennifer, at three years old, became the foster daughter of Beverly Rowe from Pennants district in Clarendon.
She attended Morgan’s Pass All Age School and Edwin Allen High.
When she was 14 years old, Jennifer left her foster family in Clarendon to live with one of two men who claimed that they were her biological father.
The man later left her in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, with the purported relatives of her biological mother. At that time, her supposed biological mom was living abroad.
Jennifer eventually stopped attending school, and instead started to work at age 14.
The authorities intervened after learning that she was absent from school.
That’s when Jennifer returned to live with the supposed father who took her from Clarendon. She stated that she eventually ran away from that home due to poor treatment.
In-between living with strangers, she became homeless on three occasions.
On the last occasion, Jennifer went to live with a Clarendon man who was much older than her. She, at age 16, became pregnant for the said man.
Jennifer ended up living between the man’s home in Clarendon and the residence occupied by her mother’s relatives in Spanish Town.
She said: “I got pregnant at age 16, graduated from [Edwin Allen] High School with one subject and pregnant, got pregnant again at age 18, then 20. By this time, every one gave up on me; I even gave up on myself.”
Searching for solace, Jennifer ended up in church – the St. John’s Road Church of God in Spanish Town.
“I started going to church. By this time, I was living off the church expense, but, because purpose cannot die, God placed the right people in my life,” Jennifer said. She also did a number of odd jobs – including working as a janitor, bartender and store clerk.
Jennifer eventually became a security guard, which was not a far cry from her childhood dream of working as a police officer.
She told The Beacon that, while working full-time as a security guard and selling goods part-time, she attended evening classes until she accumulated enough subjects to matriculate to university.
Jennifer also recalled: “The day I went to drop of my documents [at the university], I cried. I felt like I had won the lottery because I was walking on a university campus – not just mere walking, but knowing I had a shot of being enrolled. That feeling blew my mind!”
Financial challenges, however, dampened the initial merriment that accompanied enrollment.
To make matters worse, Jennifer gave birth to her fourth child just before she started university.
“I wanted to stop [attending university], because I couldn’t find the tuition fee. But God stepped right in, and the tuition was paid for two years,” she said, adding that she was assisted by kind-hearted people, including her university batch-mates.
Jennifer eventually resorted to selling goods on campus.
She explained: “I had a bubbly personality and got along with just about every one, and so I thought of a way how to make an income while at school. I resorted to selling sweets.
“Business started booming, and I would sell from a pin to an anchor on the school compound. By this time, I had friends in high places who would show me the ropes as to how to get monetary help from the university, and so I did,” Jennifer further said.
After all the struggles, she completed her four-year studies, and graduated on November 22 with honours.
Jennifer noted: “Did I fail modules? Of course I did! But my motto was, ‘the race is not for the swift but for those who can endure’. I pushed! I never gave up!”
In April next year, Jennifer will sit her license exam to become qualified to practice as a registered midwife.
“After that, I will be working for about two years here in Jamaica, then off to England to do my Master’s, then come back home to Jamaica to give back to my fellow citizens,” she told The Beacon.
The 38-year-old, who still does not have a bond with her purported biological mother whom she met face-to-face, urged people around the world to aim high regardless of the bad hand they have been dealt.
“You can achieve anything you want; just don’t give up…” Jennifer further advised. “Man can say anything, but, when they do, let it be your motivation and drive that put them to shame and silence.”
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