Yvonne Campbell is a consummate leader who spent decades building organizations and uplifting people, and so her selection for a community award really comes as no surprise.
“I enjoy helping people, and it feels good when they can show gratitude,” she said, noting that her deeds were never done with accolades in mind.
Mindful of Campbell’s extraordinary contribution, the Ewarton Community Development Committee (Ewarton CDC) in St. Catherine honoured her.
She, as well as Rachel Thomas, Madge Boyd and Leando Howell, received community service awards during a ceremony on November 25 at Bramwell Clarke Park in Ewarton town.
Campbell is a Justice of the Peace, founder of Missionaries Outreach Ministries International charity, executive member of the St. Catherine Neighbourhood Watch Committee, and executive member of the St. Catherine 4-H Club.
She also founded a police youth club and neighbourhood watch at Charlemont, and served for years as president of the Charlemont Citizens Association.
The trailblazer recalled: “When I came to Charlemont [to live], we didn’t have running water; we didn’t have telephone; we didn’t have street light. My team had to agitate to get those things. We actually blocked the main road at Charlemont entrance with our bodies to get running water.”
Not only championing the cause of her neighbourhood, Campbell also made her “gentle giant” persona felt elsewhere, including at Ewarton High School (formerly Ewarton Secondary).
Her substantive role at the school was to teach English Language and Social Studies.
However, she travelled far beyond the call of duty, contributing immensely to sporting programmes at the school and the wider community.
Her most impactful sports initiative was arguably the Northern St. Catherine Sports Association, which she founded with support from a number of high schools in the area.
The association benefited many students at the time – including Gregory Meghoo, who went on to become an Olympic silver medalist in 1984. Through the association, several other student athletes also got exposure, travelling to the United States to compete at Miami Classics.
A mobilizer by no mean order, Campbell also developed pageants and other character-building initiatives involving young people at Ewarton High, Orangefield Village where she once lived, and at Kings Chapel Apostolic Church in Ewarton where she worshiped.
Her passion for community service was no longer a secret. No wonder she, while still a teacher, was approached to help write a profile of the Ewarton community. That profile was requested as part of a substance abuse research, which was being conducted by the late Professor Carl Stone in tandem with the National Council on Drug Abuse.
Campbell’s voluntary contribution to the research did not only redound to the benefit of Ewarton’s young people; it also afforded her opportunities she never imagined.
She ended up in the US Virgin Islands addressing a regional conference on substance abuse.
Representatives of Jamaica’s education ministry were impressed with Campbell’s presentation at the conference. In light of that, they arranged for her to leave Ewarton High and join the ministry as coordinator of a school-based programme to fight substance abuse.
In 1991, Campbell was sent from Ewarton High School on secondment to the Ministry of Education partly to work along with the National Council on Drug Abuse. The ministry also sent her into communities across the island to sensitize students and families about healthy lifestyles and the ills of substance abuse.
Campbell eventually became a permanent employee of the Ministry of Education, serving in different capacities until she retired in 2014 as a senior education officer.
She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Western Carolina University in the USA, a Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of the West Indies (UWI), and a post graduate diploma in Supervisory Management from the UWI Open Campus.
Campbell’s academic brilliance, however, is rooted in her native St. Ann where she attended Chester Primary School. After being successful in her Common Entrance Examination, she relocated to St. Catherine where she enrolled at St. Jago High.
Upon completing St. Jago, Campbell landed her first job, which was at the Registrar General’s Department (RGD).
“I didn’t have parents who were able to help me [attend college] and so I worked for two years at RGD,” she told The Beacon, adding that her plan was to work, save and then attend college.
Sticking to the plan, Campbell started Mico Teachers’ College in 1974 and attained a diploma in teaching, which provided her with an opportunity to pursue her degrees in subsequent years.
Campbell, while at Mico, also met the man – Carol Campbell – who became her husband.
She joined him on staff at Ewarton High School in 1977 after completing her Mico-related internship at Dinthill Technical High School.
The Campbells, now married for 45 years, have three children – all of whom served as teachers, albeit to varying extents.
Their first child, Pastor Jason Campbell, teaches at Dinthill Technical High. Their other son, Jeremy, is an educator in Dubai. And their daughter, Jodiann Campbell-Kush, is a pharmacist who taught Pharmacy students part-time at a college in Canada.
Asked how she eventually wants her community and relatives to remember her, Campbell, now the matriarch of her family, told The Beacon: “Remember me as someone who loves people and serves people. I believe that everybody has a say and everybody needs to be heard, and everybody should be respected.”
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