Despite illness rendering her virtually immobile, Rachel Thomas has continued to display dogged determination in pursuit of initiatives geared towards youth empowerment and community development.
“I don’t use that (illness) as an issue; the important thing is just to know that I can reach someone,” she told The Beacon. “With my immobility, I want persons to see that regardless of what is happening to you, as long as you are able to do something, do it. There is always something you can do for others.”
Thomas’ immense contribution has not gone unnoticed by the Ewarton Community Development Committee (Ewarton CDC) in St. Catherine.
The committee awarded her – as well as Madge Boyd, Leando Howell and Yvonne Campbell – during a ceremony on November 25 at Bramwell Clarke Park and Sports Complex in Ewarton.
“I am excited knowing that persons I volunteered with see the need to award me; I feel excited and very appreciative about that,” said Thomas, a native of Waterloo district in Ewarton, where she grew up in a Christian home with both parents and 11 siblings.
She attended Orangefield Primary School, Rosemount Primary and Ewarton High.
She eventually enrolled at the Vocational Training and Development Institute (VTDI) in St. Andrew, where she initially attained a diploma in Technical Vocational Training.
In 1991, Thomas entered the world of work, serving as home economics assistant at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, where she spent nearly two years.
The need to strengthen her credentials beckoned, and so Thomas returned to VTDI and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Career Development.
She later taught at Holy Trinity High School in Kingston for a few months.
Her professional journey also took her to St. Mary, where she spent eight years serving as parish manager for the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC).
In 2004, Thomas returned to her native Ewarton for good.
While still living there, she worked as an image development coordinator at St. Pius Church Training Centre in Kingston. Her two-year tenure at the centre commenced in 2006.
That same year marked Thomas’ headlong dive into volunteerism when she joined the Ewarton Community Development Action Committee (ECODAC) – now known as the Ewarton CDC. While the committee was changing its name, Thomas actually was its chairman.
Rising to the top provided a greater opportunity for the volunteer extraordinaire to do “a lot” more especially for marginalized youths and other people considered to be under-served in the society.
Thomas’ insatiable appetite for outreach also drove her to become an executive member of another community organization – the Ewarton JBI Alumina Community Council Benevolent Society.
In recent years, Thomas also has been serving as vice-chairman at Rainbow School in Waterloo district.
She has been a Justice of the Peace since 2020.
In carrying out her roles as a volunteer, Thomas, over the years, spearheaded numerous community initiatives. They include children and youth summer camps, adult literacy and skill training programmes, Labour Day projects, International AIDS Day Awareness activities, Christmas dinners and awards events, and parenting sessions. She also coordinated the ECODAC Life Skills Training Centre.
“Serving your community is not an easy street to walk in at times,” Thomas noted.
She, however, finds comfort in creating social wealth.
“Not all of us will gain financial wealth, but social wealth is being able to assist those around us – to build others. Persons must be able to build others around them,” said Thomas, who has an adult son.
She further told The Beacon: “I want to be remembered as someone who helps persons around me – persons that are marginalized. As long as there is a need for them to be helped, I am here for them.”
By Horace Mills, Managing Editor
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