By Christina Williams
I missed the feeling of sand between my toes, the pelting of rain, and the rich, intense smell of grass and earth. I pined for Portland, I pined for home. But my newfound Shashamane family was there to provide a temporary respite by inviting me to my first official charity visit as a newly appointed Shashamane Sunrise Youth Ambassador. Every bump across the rugged terrain brought forth fond memories of my childhood, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for being able to return to a school full of children and share with them the key values that would have helped shaped me when I was their age. As I fastened my running shoes, my fingers fumbled from anticipation. It was the Windsor Forest Primary School’s Sports Day; the sun was out, the children were smiling, and I was home.
We spent the day among echoes of cheers as the Blue, Red and Yellow Houses competed fiercely for the title of 2017 Sports Day Champion. Success begets success, and so my house, the Blue House, was acknowledged as the winner at the end of the day’s activities. But I also encountered a loss in the Shashamane race as all the volunteers in attendance blazed past me, leaving in their wake a dust of defeat. My spirit, however, was quickly revived when I met the school’s principal who coincidentally was my primary school guidance counselor. She embraced me as tears bubbled to the surface, for she was one of the individuals who inspired my desire for success. She reminded me of the arduous hours we spent discussing my future, and even though I haven’t accomplished half of what we discussed, I was happy to have made her proud.
I was then introduced to a woman who said she was an ardent fan of my advocacy and charity work. She had watched my progress since my years at the premiere secondary institution in Eastern Jamaica, Titchfield High School, and how my efforts had not only “placed Portland on the map” but also inspired other young people to aspire to greatness through service.
But what are aspirations without resources to help one accomplish them? Shashamane Sunrise believes that a pencil goes a long way, so, naturally, Sports Day ended with the distribution of stacks of books, pencils, pens, erasers, and art materials. The children’s tired faces creased with smiles of appreciation and, upon leaving, my voice was hoarse from reminding every little one I saw that there was immense untapped potential within their hearts.
My own heart was heavy with the stories of their dreams, and was soon lightened by the sun, sand, and sea. Our day culminated in a visit to French Man’s Cove, and as the water closed over my tired feet, my heart ached no more. I had returned.
I must commend Shashamane’s efforts to transform the Jamaican mindscape one child at a time. Your efforts will not go unrewarded as young ambassadors and volunteers like me continue to aspire to inspire before we expire.
Christina Williams is Miss Teen Jamaica UN 2016 and a Shashamane Sunrise Youth Ambassador.