Margaurita Swaby - Nurturing her plants and young minds
HER job as a records clerk with the Jamaica Library Service and a farmer has seen Margaurita Swaby spending the last 30 years nurturing both her plants and young minds and although retirement beckons, she believes the rest of her life will find her still focused on doing these two things.
Swaby was just fresh out of high school when she joined the St Catherine Parish Library as a clerical assistant and stayed there six years before she was transferred to the Manchester Parish Library. However, after four years of settling in, she was once again transferred, but this time to the Mile Gully Library in the parish where she has been for the past 26 years.
"Looking on, people would think that the library is a boring place, but it is not. Working with people, who are our main resources in any community, I find it really interesting, especially when children come," she said.
There are many benefits to working in a library and one such is the fact that you will readily have access to books. Swaby admits that she has read most of the library's non -fiction books, but the thing she loves most about her field is the fact that she helps to interact with the children.
"Some of them, when they start using the library, they don't know a word and even though we don't teach them, sometimes you encourage them to read and then you find that after a couple months or a couple years, these children are able to read well and do well in their CXCs," the mother of two beamed.
Swaby gets a lot of pleasure from seeing the success of the young children in the small community and especially looks forward each year to seeing them do their best in the National Reading Competition which she helps co-ordinate for her branch. This year, a student from her group won the sectional prize for best story ending and in 2003, they had the national champion for the 12-14 age group.
But her work with children goes far beyond just helping them to prepare for the reading competition. Each year, she and the other library staff welcome more than 100 children for summer camp and during this time, the team teaches the young ones valuable life and social skills. Swaby, who enjoys doing art and craft projects, usually gets a thrill from teaching the children how to do things such as crocheting and cushion making.
Swaby served as the youth director for the Mile Gully New Testament Church of God for several years and was the brainchild behind Children in Praise, a non-denominational youth group in Manchester which provides an outlet for Christian and non-Christian children alike to socialise and be trained for leadership. The group started in 1999 and at one point had a vibrant band that was a source of entertainment for residents of Mile Gully and neighbouring districts.
"It was started as part of the celebration of Child Month in that year," she said of Children in Praise. "So it was supposed to be a one off thing, but we found out that it brought a lot of interest to the children."
"Some who were shy and withdrawn, they became good leaders in the church and even in the school," the records clerk noted.
Despite her busy schedule, Swaby does large-scale farming and is the secretary for the Mile Gully Production and Marketing Co-operative Society, which comprises other farmers in the district. While her focus is primarily on vegetable farming, the records clerk also rears pigs on her own in addition to goats and poultry in partnership with her son and husband.
"My father was a farmer, so that's where I got the love for farming. I used to go to the farm when I was much younger, so it is embedded in me. I used to go and gather the food items from the farm, so I gravitated to farming," she explained.
Swaby, who lives in the neighbouring district of Petersfield, plants vegetables such as cabbage, corn, callaloo, pumpkin and pak choi for both personal use and for sale. Farming has practically become a family thing, as her husband is also a farmer and her children assist her with planting and reaping her produce.
"My day starts at 5:30 in the morning, so I do a day's work before I get to work here by 9:00," she said. "It's something I love. I like getting up early in the mornings and getting the fresh air before it is polluted, because that gives you some vitality for the day."
Apart from farming her own ground, Swaby also does greenhouse farming with other members of the Mile Gully Production and Marketing Co-operative Society. The group currently supplies vegetables such as sweet peppers and tomatoes to supermarkets and hotels.
"This is a farming area, so there are a lot of farmers here, so we decided when the government introduced the production and marketing organisation to encourage farmers to produce as groups instead of individuals, then we got interested and formed a group with the farmers in the community," she said.
Despite the prevalence of modern technology and the proliferation of the Internet which allows people to secure information readily online, Swaby feels there is a need for the library service, especially as it relates to the preservation of historical events. She has found it to be a very rewarding field and encourages those who want to join and make their contribution to the service to do so.
"This is one way of helping to assist persons to gain knowledge and it is a valuable contribution to your society. A lot of persons shy away from it, but somebody must be there who will be able to help persons to source information, because information is power," she said.