Editorial

Miss Dorritt Bent was born to serve

Thursday, February 20, 2014    

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IF, indeed, it is appointed unto men once to die, as the Holy Bible assures us, then thanksgiving for lives well lived in service of one's fellow men must be equally relevant.

On February 6, 2014 when the country celebrated — as we should — the anniversary of the birth of some of Jamaica's great sons, including the late Bob Marley and William 'Bunny Rugs' Clarke of Third World, a Jamaican titan of service passed quietly — as she would have wanted it.

Ms Dorritt Bent won't be remembered for her spectacular voice, except perhaps in church, her spiritual abode. But in the hearts of the multitude of Jamaicans whose lives she directly and indirectly touched with her lifetime of selfless service, she will live on.

Born in November 1923, Ms Bent grew up in Kencot, St Andrew. After graduating from the Merl Grove High School in 1941, she immediately committed her life to voluntary service, with the focus on education, skills training, recreation and sports, and broad social exposure to support women and girls, in particular. Conscious of the legacy of poverty and dependence that faced the majority of Jamaicans, she worked to transform countless lives and was a constant source of encouragement to the helpless and needy, work which brought her to national prominence in the 1970s and 80s.

In 1986, Miss Bent lent her support to the founding of the Women's Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) as a member of the first board of directors, and used her vast experience to help shape the organisation which then focused on the delivery of health, social welfare and legal services to women and their families. She resigned from the WROC Board when she moved from Kingston a few years later to continue her life of community service in Spalding, Manchester.

Dorritt Bent joined the pantheon of outstanding pioneering and contemporary Jamaican women known for the heroism of their service to the country — women such as Elsie Sayle, Hazel Monteith, Sybil Francis, and Minna McLeod, among many others who helped to transform social work into a discipline and profession.

Alongside Hazel Monteith of Citizens' Advice Bureau fame, and who predeceased her, she served the national consumers' movement, along with a wide array of other organisations such as the Child Welfare Association and Boys' Town.

Ms Bent was also particularly active in the YWCA, representing the organisation at the international level on many occasions. Through such bodies she worked with groups of like-minded individuals who were pivotal in founding the Trench Town Community Centre in 1946 to provide services, including day nursery facilities, to residents of Jones Town, Denham Town, Rose Town, Trench Town, and so on.

A Christian before all else, she was deeply associated with the work of church groups, including the umbrella Jamaica Council of Churches, Church Women United, and the Women's Fellowship of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Her family was instrumental in planting the Webster Memorial United Church on Half-Way-Tree Road, St Andrew, where she remained a member for many years.

Ms Bent was a committed, assertive and plain-speaking woman who would frequently write letters on issues of concern to national leaders and the media. Her stylish natural hair and afro-centric clothing, along with her passion to serve Jamaica, marked her spirit as a true nationalist.

We extend our deepest condolence to her family and friends.

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