Nothing is more fulfilling than to find one’s true calling.
That bears truth for Derry-Ann Morgan-Allen, an esteemed philanthropist, who hails from Long Grass district in the Watermount area of St. Catherine.
Her charity, KaGra Foundation, which is registered in the United States, has helped people in various countries – Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and the United States.
That’s a lot of love gushing from a woman, who faced virtual hate when she got pregnant with her first child.
“Getting pregnant at 17 years old in a rural area 21 years ago was nothing short of a life sentence!” Derry-Ann told The Beacon.
She noted that some of her harshest critics were members of the church she attended when she was not yet baptized.
After her son was born, Derry-Ann found a job, doubling up as a waitress and cashier at a restaurant on Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine.
She eventually relocated from Long Grass district to Kingston, where she started to dabble in cosmetology, specializing in make-up application.
Derry-Ann was encouraged to become certified, and she did so at Urban Beauty in Kingston. “I passed with the highest grade the school had ever seen at that time,” she disclosed.
She later started working as a make-up artist with Urban Beauty, which, at the time, was contracted to provide cosmetology-related services at Television Jamaica (TVJ).
Derry-Ann’s first task at TVJ was to prepare persons for the inaugural broadcast of the now popular All-Together Sing show.
She eventually went to live with her mother in the United States when her son, Sheldon James, was 11 years old. Her son followed suit.
Derry-Ann stated that, when she migrated, she found it difficult to survive financially as a make-up artist.
That challenge propelled her into healthcare.
She started as a home health aid, and subsequently qualified as a certified nursing assistant. Derry-Ann later studied Electro-cardiogram (EKG) and Phlebotomy, before she became a patient care technician – a qualification that enabled her to work in hospitals along with registered nurses.
Derry-Ann was mulling improved credentials in nursing, but her passion disappeared like vapour.
She turned to real estate and later veered into social work – working with children and families at Family Central, which is one of the oldest non-profit organizations in South Florida.
“I did that job at Family Central for three years,” Derry-Ann recalled. “I was laid off because they got a budget cut. Once I got laid off, I decided that I was never gonna work for anyone again.”
That’s when Derry-Ann started working full time with her organization, KaGra Foundation.
She also resumed working as a make-up artist.
The work of the foundation has left the Jamaican native relishing a sense of accomplishment, which previously was absent from her life.
“As hard as it has been – blood, sweat and tears, I would still do it all over again,” Derry-Ann posited. “I can’t live without the feeling of knowing that I am helping someone who genuinely needs help.”
Derry-Ann is hopeful that other people, including fellow Jamaicans, will join in making kindness a hallmark.
“Keep moving. How you start isn’t half as important as how you finish,” she reasoned. “There is something each of us has to offer this world that no one else can give, so don’t rob the world of the gift that is you.”
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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