ALEXA Rae Clennon is no stranger to giving back, but while most of her altruistic efforts have focused on giving medical assistance, this 21-year-old university student hopes to give back in a more meaningful way through her recently-launched charity Heal the Nation Foundation.
The charity will provide warm meals, linen and clothing for the homeless living on the streets of the Corporate Area. The medical student said she initially conceptualised the charity with her two friends from the University of the West Indies, where she is in her first year. Eventually, two of her other friends wanted to join the cause and so the group of five is now looking forward to pulling off their first project on October 10, World Homeless Day.
"We had a concept where we wanted to help homeless people and we were saying when we are rich and older, but then we said we can do it now, if we get a lot of people together to collaborate, we can do something like this," she said.
"Initially I wanted the charity to be about helping Jamaicans on a whole, but I figured I would start where people are the worst off, which I believe are the homeless people, because they literally have nothing, but now since I have the other people on board, it is going to be more widely spread to education and general poverty," she said.
She said they plan to feed about 50 people in New Kingston, Cross Roads and Half-Way-Tree for their first project, although the aim in the long run will be to get homeless people off the streets. It's a very ambitious goal, but Clennon believes it can be achieved once she secures funding and if she continues to manage her time well.
"Being in medicine on a whole is about time management. We have 24 hours every day. If you minimise the time you spend sleeping and doing nothing, you will find that you have more time to do most things that you need to do, so I make sure that I manage my time properly,"
Clennon, who is a Diageo Learning for Life alumna and valedictorian, said the programme has inspired her to give back. The programme is spearheaded by Red Stripe and offers underprivileged young people vocation and life skills training to better themselves.
"I have literally seen people who came from nothing and they are now touring the world on ships, doing bartending or housekeeping, and it's kind of inspirational," she said.
Clennon had applied to the programme after dropping out of UWI in the first year of studies in 2010. At the time she was studying in the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences.
"I didn't finish the semester because I was kind of unfocused and I was kind of unsettled, so I didn't want to do the exams and I knew I was going to fail, so I stopped school for that time," she said. "I just wanted something to do and I always kind of had an interest in mixology, so I figured I would apply for the pogramme and I got through."
After securing her certification in bartending, she got a job with Bars to Go, which is one of the companies that administered the programme. She worked for two years as a mixologist at first and later as an administrator for the company. But although she loved her job, the Immaculate Conception High School graduate said she wanted to pursue her dreams of becoming a trauma physician and decided to apply to the medical faculty.
Clennon is a volunteer with Angels of Love Jamaica which cares for critically ill children. The group, among other things, organises fundraising initiatives to help buy equipment and undertake Labour Day projects to beautify the Bustamante Hospital for Children. She is also the deputy director of the emergency medical services committee of the UWI Student Emergency Response Team. In addition to this, she is a member of the university's external affairs committee charity arm — The Army of Good — and a member of the UWI Surgical Society.