By Keenan Falconer | IG: @keenanfalconer
Fulfilling and exceedingly rewarding. That is how I would describe my first year as a Youth Ambassador for the Shashamane Sunrise Jamaica. When I first met with Dr. Rene Zazou Williamson—“the father of Shash”—I immediately bought into his vision for the children of the inner-city community of Trench Town and the rural community of Windsor Forest in Portland. Shash has reinvigorated my passion for community service and development. The organization has to combine so seamlessly the tenets and values that I hold so dear: education, youth, and volunteerism.
My Shash journey began with a presentation at the Utech Marketing Seminar (UTMS) of $20,000 JMD to assist with a Christmas treat for the City of Refuge Children’s Home in rural St. Andrew. Then I made my first visit to the National Baptist Basic School (NBBS) in Trench Town, where I engaged the students in sporting activities for the day. Later, I did the same at the Maxfield Park Children’s Home. I also paid a visit to the Joy Town Remedial Learning Centre in Trench Town and gave a motivational talk to the students. This was sandwiched by more visits to NBBS, where I read to the students and taught them mathematics. My journey through the first year with Shash culminated with a visit to the Olga Mendez Basic School in Central Kingston, where I gave presentations to the students for a “Post Labour Day Treat” with the IGNITE Foundation.
I enjoyed every moment of this service—and not just those in which I interacted with the children, but I was also happy to execute administrative and operational tasks, like transporting fellow volunteers to our destinations and also purchasing supplies for the students. I helped to keep the cogs of the machine well-oiled.
I’ll close with a defining moment that particularly stands out to me. I had just finished giving a motivational talk to the students at the Joy Town Centre, and after exiting the classroom, a young fellow followed me and tugged gently at my shirt. I turned around.
He asked, “How come you were able to achieve so many things, Sir? What can I do to be great like you?”
“Just keep working hard and never lose sight of your goals,” I told him.
“I want to be great just like you.”
“What is your reason for wanting to be great like me?”
“I want to be great so that I can come back here like you when I leave and talk to all the students just like you talked to us.”
Keenan Falconer is an Ambassador of the Governor General’s I Believe Initiative (IBI), Youth Advisor to the Government of Jamaica, Economics student at the University of the West Indies, and Shash Youth Ambassador.