Nakeba Brown was 10 years old when her mother died at age 29, leaving nine children who had to be rescued by the then Child Development Agency, now the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA).
The trauma of losing her mother at a tender age, along with being separated from her brothers and sisters and living with strangers, took an emotional toll on her. She initially stayed by herself and refused to socialise.
Among the persons who tried to comfort her was a pastor who encouraged her to pray – which she did reluctantly.
Gradually, normal life started to set in for young Brown, and the first major good thing that she experienced was success in the then Grade Six Achievement Test (G-SAT).
“In my G-SAT, I never knew I could become a success,” she said.
She noted that, after mastering G-SAT, it was an ‘exciting’ time to be enrolled at Old Harbour High School in St. Catherine.
Brown, now a final-year Marketing and Psychology student at the University of the West Indies, said she only saw her siblings occasionally at children’s treats, which were organised by the then Child Development Agency.
“Those were heart-warming moments. I looked forward to them and held them dear to my heart,” she added.
Brown noted that wards had to be disciplined while at Yadel Home for Girls in St. Catherine, where she was raised. Officials there motivated the children to always look to a brighter future, Brown said.
She added: “There were rules that we had to adhere to, and we had to maintain respect to our House Mothers at all times. I was reminded that I was not my situation, and I am not limited to it. With that affirmation, I was motivated. I was limitless in my drive to succeed.”
Brown was elected Head Girl while in Grade 11 at Old Harbour High.
“I am a remarkable product of a children’s home. I was a ward of the State, and I hold that to my heart. I used to be offended at being called government pickney, but now, mi good. I was often teased and looked down at because of where I came from, and where I called home. As long as I know who I am, and where I am going, I never allowed what was said to jerk or move me. I didn’t give it any attention,” she said.
Brown also related the big moment when she sat her CSEC subjects, administered by the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).
“I was relaxed and assured, because I studied long and hard,” she said. She added that the then Manager of the Home, Kareen Mignott-Dixon, stood with the wards like a real mother, telling them that they would be successful, and even shedding tears when the exam results were released.
“She came to manage the Home and met 20 girls with 20 different backgrounds, and got to love us, and saw that we could become good things with our lives,” Brown declared.
She also commended Chief Executive Officer of the CPFSA, Rosalee Gage-Grey.
“You work for us as if you gave birth to us. Even when we were not behaving as we should, you still cared. I got everything I needed. I was sent to extra classes, and I even received private tutoring,” Brown said.
“During my time in State care, I met some phenomenal persons, including wonderful House Mothers.”
Brown shared her story recently at the 2020 CPFSA Educational Achievement Awards Ceremony, held at Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew. She said she and the top awardees were overcomers and achievers.
“We have what it takes to reach our goals. Everything that you want is right within you. Life is what you make of it. Being a ward of the State does not limit you to achieve anything. Believe that greatness is within you,” Brown further asserted.
Editorial Note: The information used in this story was provided by the state-owned Jamaica Information Service
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