Natasha Harriott, who struggled with abject poverty and psychological abuse, is now a tower of strength for many young people in and around Buff Bay, Portland.
To undertake her philanthropic work, she, in May 2019, started an organization – Nation Builders Youth Development (NBYD).
She told The Beacon: “I made a promise growing up that I was going to help as many persons as I can.”
Harriot’s benevolence is inspired mainly by her mother, Murvalee Harriot.
“My mom was always giving, and I don’t know where she got it from to give, because we really didn’t have it… We grew up helping persons out of a little. That is what motivates me.”
Harriot’s organization provides opportunities for personal and social development. It also distributes care packages and financial assistance, and awards front-line workers for service to their communities.
Harriot said: “We do monetary donations to some students, and we also did an internet access programme that offers internet to students in the community who are struggling to do their school work.
“We also focus on youth and trying to build entrepreneurs. We are partnering with HEART Trust to get them (young people) certified and to start businesses of their own,” she added.
Her voluntary work has not gone un-noticed.
On International Women’s Day this year, the True United Sisters organization in St. Catherine awarded Harriot for dedicated service in the field of community development.
She, in expressing gratitude, commented: “Being awarded is really a good feeling because you are recognized for doing what you really love and wanted to do.”
Harriot, who was raised along with three sisters, is originally from Oracabessa, St. Mary.
She attended Oracabessa Primary School and Oracabessa High.
When her parents eventually migrated to live at Ocho Rios in St. Ann, she went with them.
Her journey later took her to Portland.
Reflecting on her childhood, Harriot said: “Growing up, we were very poor, and so we just went to school when we could – not when we were supposed to… Regardless of that, our house was full of love and laughter.”
Harriot, who is married to Douglas Ford, is now a mother of three boys and two girls.
She has worked as a cashier, waitress, bartender, and hairdresser although her childhood dream was to become an accountant.
Harriot is now a part-time early childhood teacher at a homework centre, which she established amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
She explained that she started the classes on her veranda, and initially intended to teach only her three-year-old daughter, whose infant school sojourn was delayed due to COVID-19.
“I decorated my veranda as a learning environment and it started to attract other parents,” Harriot said.
“Following the protocols [established against COVID-19], I started to help out others. From there, I started the internet access programme where I assist other persons in the community who don’t have access to WiFi.”
The class now has 13 children. Some of them pay for the lessons they receive.
Harriot told The Beacon that she eventually would like to be remembered for making a positive difference.
“I want to be remembered as the girl who made a difference regardless of what she had endured [and] regardless of what had been said about her. I believe in changing the world one youth at a time; I want to make that change.”
Harriot advised people to believe in themselves.
“Don’t let what other people think of you define what you will become,” she said. “Use your critics as a stepping stone. Never think less of yourselves; always think more, because that motivates you to do better.”
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