Andrene Lewis-Longwe sat in her Kingston offices minutes after hosting a special event on September 10 to mark the first anniversary of her business operation in Jamaica.
It was an opportune time to surprise her with the Beacon Of The Year Award (2020), which she won in March, but was not on island to collect.
The surprise was pulled off by no other than Horace Mills, a long-serving journalist and founder of The Jamaica Beacon media entity. He noted that the award is not for ‘perfect’ people, but for those who defy all odds, succeed, and try to uplift others.
Lewis-Longwe is a survivor of child sexual abuse, poverty, teenage pregnancy, joblessness, homelessness, and racism.
She is now married and is the owner of two businesses, which collectively employ some 100 people in England and her native Jamaica. She is also a philanthropist at heart.
As she enthusiastically collected the relatively large award – a symbol of her journey from darkness to light, she lauded the 14 other nominees and expressed gratitude to the people who stood with her through the dark.
“I remember when I did not feel like a beacon, because there was so much struggle,” she said. “This [award] is for people who do not see themselves as a beacon; find your light and shine… It doesn’t matter if someone else does not see your worth; find the worth in yourself.”
Lewis-Longwe also implored people not to squander opportunities to turn their lives around.
“I got a break and I went to the UK, but I see plenty people who leave Jamaica and go abroad and still waste that opportunity. When opportunity comes knocking, grab it with both hands,” she further advised.
After leaving Jamaica for England in 2002, Lewis-Longwe had a rocky start and was homeless at one point.
She ended up juggling three jobs, including one at a cafe where she scrubbed pots and pans.
She sent herself back to school, where she attained vocational qualifications up to Level 5.
Lewis-Longwe eventually found employment with an agency that offers health and social care services.
When she left that job years later, she remained in the industry, starting her own company in 2009 while many businesses were still reeling from the global economic recession.
Her company, named Break Barriers, now employs more than 80 people in the city of Nottingham, England.
Lewis-Longwe made another massive move in 2020 – a year when many businesses were closing their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She brought a branch of her company to Jamaica, naming it Break Barriers Caring Hands Jamaica Limited.
The company was launched officially during a ceremony in Kingston on December 10, 2020.
It is similar to a nursing home, which cares for senior citizens, differently-abled people and others. The big difference is that it provides the care in the comfort of its clients’ homes.
Lewis-Longwe does not only provide opportunities for others to grow; she also radiates an energy strong enough to light up even the darkest place.
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