REIGNING nurse of the year, and the Prime Minister's 2010 Youth In Service Award for Excellence recipient, 26-year-old midwife Victoria Melhado, is to be one of Jamaica's representatives to the CIVICUS Youth Assembly which is to be hosted between September 3-7 in Montreal, Canada.
Melhado was among 15 youth leaders from over 300 applicants who managed to secure a bursary to attend the event which each year gathers youth advocates from around the world to discuss how they can effect social changes within their countries.
The registered nurse and midwife, who is based at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston, told All Woman she is thrilled at being selected as a bursary recipient. She said she is looking forward to interacting and learning from other civil society activists.
"Especially where youths are concerned, it recognises youths who have the potential for leadership, who have the potential for activism and who are actively making a significant difference in their community or their nation," she said.
The theme of this years event is, 'Defining a new social contract, making the future together', and it is expected to galvanise young people to increase their advocacy for civil issues that impact citizens.
"They encourage citizen participation, citizen voice, active advocacy and citizens representing them when it comes on to actually dialoguing and speaking with their government and having an active role in determining how policies affecting them are implemented," she said.
Melhado's involvement in civic activities began from her days at the Edwin Allen High School in Clarendon, where she was involved in the Red Cross and the Key Club. Her passion for advocacy led to her becoming a registered nurse and a midwife, which allows her to partake in the care and delivery of women and teenage mothers, often from disadvantaged backgrounds.
In October 2010, Melhado launched Be Inspired Ministries, a non-denominational, non-government organisation that assists the less fortunate. Since its inception, the charity organisation has hosted several wellness clinics and health fairs to provide health care to the less fortunate in society. Her group also partners with Food for the Poor and a few other local organisations to host a monthly food distribution programme.
Be Inspired Ministries also has student mentorship programmes which sees its members visiting girls' and children's homes. The group also recently established a club at the Seaward Primary and Junior high school in the volatile Olympic Gardens community in Waterhouse.
"We actually target vulnerable communities and we seek to mentor inner city children," said Melhado.
Melhado is also the author of Be Inspired, which comprises 32 poems she wrote as a teen while growing up in a dysfunctional family. It is proceeds from this book that she used to carry out some of her organisation's work.
The young nurse has been an HIV/AIDS advocate since 2006 and has research relating to human trafficking in vulnerable youth and women. She also marched with the UWI Mona Law Society during their anti-trafficking campaign and plans to host another anti-child trafficking campaign in her new capacity as the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) nurse of the year.
Melhado topped several other nominees to win the title during the 13th staging of the LASCO/NAJ annual Nurse of the Year Awards Ceremony at the Pegasus Hotel on July 21. Her win makes her one of the youngest recipients of the award thus far.
"Ever since I was a nursing student and I was made aware of the nurse of the year competition, I have always aspired to be such an exemplary nurse or a nurse extraordinaire that could actually one day cop the coveted title. I must say it is a coveted title in nursing," she said.