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Humbly, I rose from poverty to doctorate

Humbly, I rose from poverty to doctorate

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by Dr Rose-Ann Smith

I stood in the audience on my graduation day and for the first time, my eyes welled up with tears, as the whole auditorium applauded and shouted words of congratulations to persons they did not know or might not have seen before. For the first time, it was impressed upon me the meaning and size of my accomplishment. I am Dr Rose-Ann Smith. I never thought that I would have got this far, but I had to for myself and my family.{{more}} I wish to share my story with you and really do hope that it will encourage someone to press towards their dreams.

I grew up the in the small village of La Croix in the Mesopotamia Valley in a home to a father, Rawlston ‘Jerry’ Diamond, who is an alcoholic, but a good father to us. His last name is Diamond, but it in no way suggests ‘riches’. After all, my memories served to remind me of the one bedroom house, in which myself and brothers grew up, with the outdoor wattle and daub kitchen and outside bathroom and toilet, otherwise called a latrine. Later, that home became a two-bedroom and we had what was called a ‘hall’. I later learnt that the proper name for it was a living room, but then it would seem that only the rich had living rooms and country people, who were mostly poor, had a hall. We did not have light or water, so we had to ‘drogue’ water from a standpipe and a kerosene lamp, candles or a flambeau served as light in the night. My mom, Veronica Williams, sold food crops in the market, and then she worked at a hotel to clean rooms and make up beds and later as a cook. My life was simple, but for the most part, I was contented and outside of the impact of the alcohol that my father drank regularly, I believed that we were happy.

When I looked at my family, I saw and felt the struggle. There were single parents finding it hard to support their kids, but they tried. I saw alcoholics, gamblers, ganja smokers etc. Some viewed us as thieves, but for most, we were poor people who would not amount to anything. It appeared as if all our parents and grandparents were uneducated. However, when I listened to the stories about my family, I realized that we weren’t dumb. Instead, poverty had prevented all our parents from reaching beyond primary school. Sometimes they had to stay away from school to work on the farm or only go to school half day. Roast grindy and sugar water was breakfast or lunch for some. I looked and saw how the impact of being poor was trickling down to my cousins. They were dropping out of school. They lacked motivation and drive and who can be motivated on a hungry belly? I remembered seeing family members eating boiled banana and butter for lunch/dinner because that was all that could be afforded. I never went hungry, but I remember having to borrow money to buy chicken or to go to school. When I heard people saying, even today, they do not eat chicken back, I do not comment. Rather, I can only thank God for the little protein I got from it growing up, and reminisce on how sweet it was in pelau or stewed down with some roast breadfruit. Yes, chicken back was dog food for some, but it was quite a popular meat in our house. Will I eat it again? Of course, and proudly too.

Today, I look at my family and I am proud. Our past is not our present. I am proud because a generation rose up that wanted something different and we were supported by a family who wanted differently for their kids. I am proud of those who learnt a skill, even though they did not get their subjects. I am proud of those who finished with their many subjects and who decided to rise beyond. I am proud to be the first to attend university and the first doctor of philosophy in my family, to witness the first attorney-at-law in my family, Saskia Diamond. I am proud to have my cousin Dominique George studying medicine and a brother, Kamaro (Roger) Williams doing his Bachelor’s in Social Studies Education. I am proud to see both of my brothers becoming great musicians. I still get goosebumps when my younger brother, Brent Williams, sings and I am amazed at his lyrical skills. They never went to a music school, but taught themselves to play many instruments. I am proud of the police officers, nurses, pastors, coast-guard workers, government workers, carpenter, masons etc, etc. But most of all, I am proud because when I look at the crop of us who succeeded and are succeeding, I realized that we have all put God first.

Let us continue to pave the way of success for our family. Dream BIG!!! Let us not pull down or look down on one another, but let us motivate one another. Let us not be selfish in our acts, but live lovingly with one another, edifying our brothers and sisters above ourselves. Let us continue to pray for one another, especially the younger ones who are just getting started in day-care and primary school. Remember always the distance from whence we came and in everything, let us give thanks to the Most High God. We are Diamonds, Williams and Catos and we are out to make a difference for our families and with our families.

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