feeding UWI students, staff for over 30 years
FROM sharing a bed with his five siblings, helping his mother sell, to owning his own business in the form of a stall at the University of the West Indies, Mona, is only a part of the story that Ricardo Currie, affectionately called Nardo, has to tell.
While growing up in August Town, Nardo told the Sunday Observer that it was no bed of roses, as at the time of his childhood, the community was plagued with violence.
"While growing up in the '80s, August Town was a very volatile area and was referred to as the godfather of uptown. People feared coming here and if they heard you were from this area they were afraid of you," Nardo said.
But Nardo said that amidst the violence, it was his mother, Marvalyn McDermott who kept him on the straight and narrow path.
"She ensured that we stayed away from violence. Our father was present but we never got the backing from him like we got it from our mother. She really stood behind us," he said.
How his business at the university started is a testimony to his survival as he was only six years old when he started helping his mother to sell on the campus, which often resulted in them running from authorities and police on the premises.
"It was my mother who started selling here first in 1983 and we (siblings and himself) were going around to classrooms with our goods, running from authorities and police on the campus just to make a living," he said.
Nardo said, however, that his mother did not give up, as that was his family's only means of survival.
"Despite running up and down on the campus, my mother remained strong. If she had given up, who knows where I would probably be. This was how we ate and although it was a struggle, she tough it out," he said.
But their days of running from the campus' authorities was not eternal, and in 2004 the university formalised their business in the form of a stall at the entrance to the faculty of Humanities and Education by the name of Nardo's One Stop, known for its legendary hot dogs.
Apart from hot dogs, one can get snacks ranging from corn dogs, sugar dogs and 'Pitbulls' to bun and cheese, banana chips, biscuits
The 'Pitbull', he said, is made from grotto bread, but the secret ingredients are what he refused to disclose.
Since the formalisation of his stall, Nardo said that his survival skills have grown and he has learned to make the little he has work.
"I have learned to turn my hand and make fashion. I am a born hustler and will die as a hustler. I have learned that one of the best things is to be able to put food on your own table, by the sweat of my brow I shall eat bread.
"When school is out I used to pick plums, bag them out and sell. So nothing will stop me," Nardo said.
He added that since being on the campus, he knows that he has become a better man and will work to let his children live comfortably.
"Since I've been here I've been a better man. I never got to go to college though I wanted to. While here, people will say to me why I don't go and do certain courses, but that's not my ultimate goal. I have four sons and I want to see them through college. It's not about me but them. I'm doing this to afford them the life I never had," he said.
While his children are his main priority, Nardo said that he looks out for the students on campus and will ensure that they eat a meal even if they can't afford to pay him up front.
"I remember where I am coming from and is a lot of days I grow up and never have anything to eat, so if students come to me and say Nardo me a trust something, I'll give them and wait on the money cause I know what hungry feel like," he said.
Nardo said that since he has been on the campus he has been able to own a vehicle, which he said was made possible by a past student of the University. He also owns his own home.
"When I received the car, it was a student who I use to help out who now owns a car dealing place who called me and said because of what I did for him on campus he'll give me a decent payment plan. I take my earnings here and save it up to make my life better," Nardo said.
His mother Marvalyn said that she is proud of her son's accomplishment and the mere fact that he avoided criminal activities.
"Despite the struggles we had growing up, I know that after the storm there must be a calm. I ensured that neither he nor his siblings got mixed up in any criminal activities and where we are coming from to where we are now. I'm proud," Marvalyn said.
She referred to the struggles that they had, apart from their hustling, and advised younger individuals to keep trying.
"I want to tell young people not to be misled and to remain in the right path. I remember sleeping on a bed without a middle and having to use cardboard to hold it up, wood fire to cook and rain fall and wash my pot off the fire, but I never gave up. While there is life there is hope, don't let pride get the best of you, once you aim for your goals and set targets in life, better must come and you won't stay poor," she said.
Nardo said that though the stall is nowhere fancy to dine, he will remain devoted to serving his customers at the university to achieve his goal of being the best father to his children.
"When it comes to development of persons, the university will help. They gave us a stall on campus. It's nowhere fancy to come and dine but I want nothing more, as humble calves suck the most milk. We could be elsewhere, who knows, but we know the rules and we abide by them. We comply and keep a good relationship," he said.
He added that he still has much more to accomplish in life and he wants to see his sons come to the university. However, his expression of thanks to the staff, students and past students at the UWI will never be enough.
"Everytime I get the chance to tell them thank you, I do it and mean it from the bottom of my heart. If I could wash them foot and drink the water I'd do it. Most of all I want to say thanks to Carolyn Cooper, the late Barry Chevannes and Professor Aggrey Brown, Miss Kitty, the dean of humanities and everyone who has helped me to be here," Nardo said.