CHRISTMAS is a busy time for the Mustard Seed Communities, but it's no more busy than usual for the group's executive director Darcy Tulloch-Williams, whose careful administration of her 450 unofficial children continues in and out of season.
Working with these abandoned and vulnerable children was not exactly what Tulloch-Williams had in mind when she was considering a career path. In fact, she had been a copywriter, a broadcaster and a marketing executive, before she left the corporate world to rub shoulders with these young ones. And while some might marvel at such a decision, for her it has been a matter of coming full circle.
"It's a heart thing, because you really have to love the children and you have to love the work that you are doing and so it becomes a ministry," said Tulloch-Williams, who became the executive director for the local arm of the charity group in January of this year.
Tulloch-Williams had always wanted to be a broadcaster and in fact graduated from the University of the West Indies with a degree in mass communication, language and literature. She then became a copywriter for an advertising agency before branching out to join an international pharmaceutical company in the area of marketing and sales management. Meeting and interacting with like-minded executives was Tulloch-Williams' life for many years and five of those years also saw her joining veteran journalist Lindy Delapenha as host of Morning Time, a weekday morning programme that was aired on Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (now Television Jamaica). During this time she was mentored by her senior co-host, under whose tutelage she blossomed from a shy broadcaster to a confident presenter.
It took her position being made redundant at the pharmaceutical company for her to actually consider the possibility of doing something new and totally different.
"I said to myself... I want to do something that is a little bit more fulfilling," she said.
Two months after losing her job, she had a chance encounter with founder of the Mustard Seed Communities Father Gregory Ramkinsoon, and thus began her exciting journey with the charity group.
However, working with a charity was nothing new for Tulloch-Williams, who had been a member of Father HoLung and Friends since she was 15 years old. She had in fact been a founding member of the group after she was recruited during her high school years by the philanthropist. Having lost her father at four years old, Father HoLung became a powerful male figure in her life.
Ramkisoon was just as encouraging and during her first meeting with him following his invitation for her to stop by, he asked her to choose between becoming the administrator of either their community radio station Roots 96 FM, or their home for pregnant teenage mothers which is called Mary's Child.
"I thought about it and it had a hook for me because of that whole thing of serving. I now wanted to do something that was worthwhile and something that could impact on people's lives," she said.
"I chose the pregnant girls because I felt there I could make some form of impact," Tulloch-Williams said.
The experience was a challenging one to say the least for the former broadcaster and corporate executive.
"When you are dealing with pregnant teenage girls, there is so much that you have to cater for, not just the physical, but the psychological, because now it's babies that you are dealing with, so that was totally different in terms of what I was exposed to," she said.
After working there for five years, she was asked to manage Jerusalem, a home comprising over 170 children who were physically and mentally challenged.
"After I came here, soon after I was having my second child and it was kind of odd being pregnant and being around physically and mentally challenged children because your mind starts to wonder, 'O lord will I have a normal child?' But being in the setting I forgot about all of it," said Tulloch-Williams.
At Jerusalem she also catered to the needs of HIV positive children. She was also responsible for the Dare to Care Programme, which was the paediatric section for babies born with HIV.
"We have kind of been a change agent where we have managed to dispel some of those myths that are associated with a particular population of individuals. We have been able to do that and that is something that we will continue. That is our mandate, to provide for the least of our brothers and those that exist on the periphery of society," she said.
It's a lot of work, but Tulloch-Williams said she manages her day with "a lot of prayers" and a good sense of humour.
"The laughing helps me because that is what keeps your spirit buoyant because if you take things too seriously, you will become depressed," she said.
No matter how busy she gets, time is always scheduled for her family which includes her husband of 16 years and her two sons. The caregiver also loves reading and is sure to secure regular "me time" when she cuts off everyone and relaxes with a good book.
"When I give a full day, I give a full day, so I don't take my work home with me, because when I go home, that is the family time and we are encouraged to do that," she said.
Tulloch-Williams has no regrets about leaving her corporate life behind, although she is sure that all of her experiences have prepared her for the crucial role of shaping the lives of the children who benefit from the nurturing environment Mustard Seed provides.
"My vision is to continue to ensure that we build on that caring capital that we are known for, but to build on it so that when we say that we provide for the children, we do so at all levels, looking at the psychosocial needs of the individual, plus the physical need of the individual," she said.