Maxine Wilson’s rags to riches story

Sunday, January 15, 2017

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MAXINE Wilson lives by the daily mantra that if she can help somebody she passes along the way, then her living is not in vain.


A devout Christian, Wilson, 54, who grew up in Waterhouse, St Andrew, told
All Woman that the reason for her devotion to giving back is her experience with being in need.


"I lived there until I was about 19. I was exposed to poverty, and I knew what crime was all about. I went to Camperdown, and from Waterhouse to Camperdown was a long distance and I sometimes had to walk so I knew what poverty was. My father had a little minibus and in those days it was what you called the number 8 bus to Waterhouse. He was responsible for picking up JOS workers in the morning, but the bus would give us so much trouble. We had to get up before we went to school — at 3:00 am — and push that bus to make sure it started. We pushed it down a hill in Waterhouse, and if the bus didn’t start we had to push it back up the hill, then get back home in order to get ready for school. I knew what poverty was."


She added: "I was tasked with the responsibility to go to the shop to ‘trust’ goods. I would go to the shop and I remember vividly one Saturday night when we went and the shop was full, the lady just looked at me and said, ‘Little girl, tell yuh mother come pay the bill, me nah trus’ you nothing more’, and that was it. We couldn’t afford to pay the bill, so after a while they stopped giving us credit. My mom was a domestic worker and she would come home and explain to us the difficulties she had. For example, she could not sit around the table to eat. They would place a stool outside and tell her to sit out there. They never allowed her to be part of the family. Our lease was $8 per month. We owed years of lease and could not pay. We had a breadfruit tree and many days before the breadfruit was full we had to pick it and eat it; and lime leaf tea and soursop tea were what I was used to with crackers."


But she was determined to improve her circumstances, and recounted one specific experience that really brought to life her reality and fuelled her drive for success.


"My father took me out to the square which is the intersection of Bay Farm Road and Olympic Way. He really didn’t have the money, so he just wanted to ask one of the minibus drivers to allow me a free ride to town and then I could walk from town to Camperdown. The man drove off, almost ran the vehicle over my father’s foot, and said, ‘You think is water run this?’ That in itself, that moment, I said whatever it takes I’m going to make that difference, work hard, go to school and make a change. I know what poverty is and I’m determined not to walk that path. My parents tried hard, but they really didn’t have it," Wilson said.


Subsequently, she began working shortly after leaving Camperdown, then enrolled at the College of Arts, Science and Technology — now UTech — where she did a diploma in banking and financial services.


She also holds a law degree with honours from UTech, an MBA from the University of New Orleans, and has completed two years of PhD studies in marketing.


She has years of professional experience in general and credit management, delinquency control, project management, marketing, financial counselling and strategic planning.


Currently the chairman of the HEART Trust/NTA, Wilson is also a Justice of the Peace, chair of the special committee set up to review operations at a number of tertiary institutions islandwide, chair of the merger committee to oversee the transfer of engagements of the National Youth Service and the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning with the HEART Trust/NTA, and also a member of the board of directors for Jamaica Youth for Christ.


During her nine months at HEART she has led the charge for the customer engagement centre, the cell phone repair technician programme, occupational degree programme, upskilling programme, and absorptive capacity programme — to be launched on February 2.


She has also done charitable work for the National Children’s Home and is involved in inner-city welfare developmental work, particularly in the communities of Waterhouse and Kencot.


Also the general manager of the Palisadoes Co-op Credit Union where she has worked for 21 years, Wilson was instrumental in moving the union’s total assets from $28 million in 1996 to $1.64 billion in December 2015, and at the same time increasing the loan portfolio from $27 million to just over $1 billion over the same period.


She’s also a trained family counsellor and an honorary member of the International Society of Business Leaders and the International Risk Management Association.


Presently, she is pursuing a professional certification course in risk and compliance with the International Association of Risk & Compliance Professionals.


With over 28 years’ experience serving in the capacity of trainer and lecturer, she has helped to hone the skills and talents of her students in the areas of customer service management, strategic planning and development, service excellence, policy development and supervisory management.


A single mother of one daughter, Aleah, Wilson doesn’t hesitate to tell how her child has proven that God is able.


"In the first trimester I had German measles, and doctors encouraged me strongly to have an abortion as the child would come with abnormalities. I said whatever the child is going to be I’m mentally and physically prepared. When she was born she was perfect. Today she is a third-year medical student, a devout Christian, very active in her church. It shows that God can do what man can’t," she said.


In her spare time she enjoys crocheting, playing dominoes, following track and field, and spends time reading the Bible, which she refers to as true nutrition for life.


Guided by Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalm 91:7, Wilson is a big supporter of women’s empowerment, and encourages women to stand up and be counted.


"Sometimes we are too laid-back and allow men to take over. Some of us are not strong enough. We are making strides and can do so much more. Gone are the days we [would] sit to the back of the room. Come forward and make your presence felt," she urged.

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