Single mother defies the odds
BEING from a poor background and becoming a single mother at an early age has often proven a deterrent to success for many young women.
But for the hard-working Shanta Watson, she has used all obstacles as stepping stones as she moves nearer to her dream of becoming a social worker.
Watson, the mother of a teenaged daughter, now attends the Moneague College where she is pursuing her dream. She intends to read for a Bachelor's degree in social work at university in September.
While she is now studying, Watson will tell you that it was no easy task getting to where she is today, as, for the woman from humble beginnings, the challenges were many.
Watson, who grew up in the rural community of Tydixon, described her family as "very poor".
"I grew up poor. We were one of the poorest families there," she revealed to the Jamaica Observer.
However, she was always determined to make life better and so she left the community after the birth of her child in search of employment.
This led her to Moneague, St Ann, where she stayed temporarily, and soon started working at a fast food restaurant in Ocho Rios. Soon after, she shifted to the Corporate Area where she was employed at the Kingston Public Hospital. However, not being satisfied with the salary from the health institution, she began to work in a bar.
After working two jobs with meagre remuneration and barely managing to survive, Watson decided to start her own business.
"Sometimes when I get pay, it's just for me to go back to work," the Marcus Garvey Technical High School past student said.
In 2005, she started a bar in Claremont, St Ann. Unlike the typical bar, she began with just an igloo full of items.
"Not even a stool I didn't have in the bar," she told the Sunday Observer during an interview recently.
However, she was determined to turn a struggling life around. Through savings, she soon was able to fully furnish her bar and bought several appliances. She was also able to acquire a piece of land and buy herself the fancy car that she had always desired.
Watson said that one of her dreams was to have a beautiful car, something she admired as a child. It was through her bar that she accomplished that dream. However, she sold her car recently in order to offset some of her expenses.
She admitted that at the start, business was good but as the economic pressure increased, so has the income that she earns from the bar which she still operates while attending school and carrying out her duty as a full-time mother.
"I am not really making money now. Things I used to buy I can't buy anymore," she explained, adding that patrons now buy less and the number of people visiting the bar has been on the decline.
She stated that people were choosing more economic options and so many will purchase some items in the supermarket where they might get them cheaper.
However, Watson does not intend to close business as she depends on it not only for the survival of her child, but her parents and to pay her bills, including mortgage.
"I can't close it down. If I am at home and hungry I can sell a few beers and buy dinner. If I didn't have a bar, I wouldn't have anything to run to," she said.
Watson believes that her bar is a blessing as it has provided the platform for her today. It was while experiencing difficulty at the bar, she said, that she was encouraged to go back to school -- an encouragement that came from her landlady Eunice Brown.
"She raised the rent and I told her I couldn't afford it and she encouraged me to go back to school," Watson said.
Her sister told her that social work would be a great field of study for her and so she enrolled in that programme at the Moneague College.
Watson recalled going to school many times without money, being hungry and having to depend on classmates to help her with her fare back home.
Remembering this, she is motivated to do her best for herself and her family.
"Time is hard, but we just have to do our best," she said.
Through her studies and community service, Watson said that she has already fallen in love with the profession and believes that she has much to offer.
"I love it," the hardworking 32-year-old said of her studies.
"You have to know what you want and stay focused. Education is the only way out of poverty," Watson stated.