Rickardo Witter, who sold goods in Linstead Market and took care of his sick mother up to the time she drew her last breath in 2010, said he would have failed if he had not been purpose-driven.
He appealed for especially young people to find their ‘why’ in life. “Focus on the main reason you are doing what you are doing. Find your ‘why’ and focus on it. Don’t let the negative situations that you are in stop you from moving forward.”
Rickardo further stated that his late mother, Donna Lewis, was the main reason he pushed himself to succeed.
He graduated from the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) this month with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing.
“I did it for my mother,” he told The Beacon. “She was my motivation right through.”
Rickardo does not have a close relationship with his father, who lives in St. Elizabeth and has more than a dozen children.
He said his mother, a former cook at Linstead Market in St. Catherine, was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008 when he was 13 years old.
She became bedridden at the home she and Rickardo shared in Zepherton district – not far from the fire station in Linstead.
“My mother had diabetes and it was going really bad. She got visually impaired; she was suffering from liver and kidney problems,” Rickardo further explained.
“I had to inject her with insulin in the mornings and evenings. I had to cook and wash her clothes and bathe her and stuff like that.”
Rickardo also became the breadwinner in the household – selling ice, bag juice and guineps in Linstead Market, as well as working at a wholesale.
He said the vendors who knew his mother sometimes gave him groceries to take home, and money for him to attend classes at Charlemont High School.
Rickardo noted that, whenever he was selling goods or attending school, he unfortunately had to leave his mother alone at home.
“It was a very rough time for me because I was very young,” said Rickardo, who is now 25 – the youngest of his mother’s five children. He noted that a maternal sister, Tani Pryce, also pitched in when she could.
Rickardo recalled that, two days after his fifteenth birthday, he was at school when he suddenly felt an urge to leave earlier than he usually did. When he arrived home, he saw a crowd at his gate. He knew something was wrong.
“When I reached home, the people told me my mother died and the body was already gone [to the morgue],” Rickardo said, adding that he was devastated.
He said his mother’s passing resulted in him performing poorly in academics in Grade 10.
He eventually transferred from Charlemont High School to Dinthill Technical High, where he started Grade 10 all over again.
Rickardo graduated from Dinthill with nine CSEC subjects from the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).
He later enrolled in the sixth form programme at St. Jago High School in Spanish Town where he reaped success in eight CAPE subjects and an additional CSEC subject.
With a total 18 subjects under his belt, Rickardo started to attend the University of Technology to pursue studies in Sports Management. He recalled sleeping in the university’s library at nights and bathing in the auditorium bathrooms. But poverty forced him to quit after the first semester.
Rickardo was down, but definitely not out.
He started working as a personal fitness trainer using the UWI gym and elsewhere.
He earned enough money to cover living expenses and send himself through UWI, where he pursued a degree in Marketing – starting in 2016.
“My friends used to joke about it, saying UWI is my bank. None of my pay would stay in my bank account,” Rickardo said.
He added that, although his job was financing his degree, it was academically taxing.
He ended up failing some courses and had to do an extra semester at UWI.
Reflecting on his journey, Rickardo said success would not have been possible without the many kind-hearted people who reached out to him because they were cognizant of his struggles.
They included vendors in Linstead Market, teachers at Charlemont High and Dinthill Technical, as well as members of Linstead Pentecostal Tabernacle where he worships. Rickardo actually was baptized in 2009.
He is now the owner of Witter Fitness, which offers personal training at the gym, at homes and online. He holds a certificate in nutrition from the Health Sciences Academy, and was trained by the National Aerobics and Fitness Trainers Association.
Rickardo is also a past student of Linstead Primary School.
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