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VIDEO: Prayer answered

Family gets home for Christmas after Observer story

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, December 25, 2013    

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SEVENteen-year-old Nashawn Madourie and his family are having the Christmas they have always dreamt of -- inside a comfortable home of their own.

The family moved into their new two-bedroom house on Tuesday, courtesy of Food For the Poor which moved to address their plight after reading their story in the Jamaica Observer North East.

Hard work and determination have paid off in more ways than one for the teen who aced nine Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects with six grade ones, despite having to walk four miles, uphill from his home in Whitehall, St Thomas, to Seaforth High School every day, many times on an empty stomach.

Madourie, now a sixth former, got grades one in Information Technology, Social Studies, English, Accounts, Principles of Business and Office Administration; grade two in Biology; and grade three in Mathematics and Spanish.

His mother, Marcia Bonfield, told the Jamaica Observer, in an October 28, 2013 article, that Nashawn would never miss a day

of school.

"Sometimes is just a bottle of water him have to put in his bag and him walk from Whitehall to Seaforth for school," she explained then.

On the days he was on the morning shift Nashawn would often set out walking from before daybreak to get to school on time, as he refused to allow not having money for taxi fare to deter him from getting an education.

And on the days when he did not have lunch, which was most of the time, Nashawn said he walked around the school while his peers ate, so they would be none the wiser.

However, following the publication of the article, Jamaicans at home and abroad were so inspired by his story that organisations and individuals reached out to ensure that his life's journey could be a bit smoother.

Telecoms company Digicel, so moved by Nashawn's plight and those of several other children at the Seaforth High School, loaded up vehicles and headed to the school with tons of food items for distribution.

Dean at Seaforth High Donna Williams, who first brought Nashawn's plight to the Observer, became emotional as she expressed how overwhelmed she was by the public response.

"This is what's right with Jamaica," she said.

She explained that the Morant Bay branch of Juici Patties requested a needs assessment for him, while the University of Technology, Jamaica had expressed an interest in assisting him to attend the institution where he is hoping to pursue a degree in either Finance or Information Technology as soon as he completes his current six CAPE units.

An overseas company, she said, had also expressed an interest in helping him, while individuals have sent funds to ensure he has daily lunch money and taxi fare for school, and others have committed to help him with school supplies.

"I would personally like to say that the Seaforth High School family is very appreciative of what persons are doing for Nashawn, as I didn't expect that people would have reached out like they did. And we are thankful to the Observer for highlighting his plight," she said, adding that the school has been fielding calls from as far as Germany from persons enquiring how they can assist.

However, the icing on the cake was Food For the Poor's donation of the two-bedroom house, equipped with solar lighting and a water tank to replace the tiny dilapidated rented structure the family had called home.

Bonfield said getting a house is an answered prayer as she has often prayed for the day when the family could have a place of their own.

"Mi just glad," said an overwhelmed Bonfield.

When the Observer visited the family on Monday, Bonfield said she had already packed up the few items she owned and was looking forward to moving into her new home on Christmas Eve.

She explained that she had been paying rent for some time now for the tiny board dwelling which housed her and five children ages 17, 15, 12, seven, and four.

"Mi was paying rent and every day the floor board dem a drop out and mi have to be nailing them back in; and so I glad to finally have a place," said the single mother.

Bonfield said she owed the family's good fortune all to Nashawn, as it was his hard work which resulted in the outpouring of support.

Meanwhile, the soft-spoken teenager said he was grateful for the outpouring of support.

"I want to say a big 'thank you' to Food For the Poor for seeing the article, because this house is so much more comfortable compared to where I [was] living, and special thanks to Mrs Williams (dean at Seaforth High School) and a big thanks to everyone else who have helped me, and thank God," he said smiling.

In an earlier interview, Nashawn told the Observer that his life has significantly changed since the article was published, as he no longer has to walk to school or go without lunch.

"I would like to say a big 'thank you' to everyone who played a part in helping me and everyone I have spoken to have encouraged me to continue on this path. And so the pressure is now greater to prove myself, because there are so many people expecting great things of me," he said.

On Monday, the Food For the Poor representatives, including Executive Director Jacqueline Johnson, journeyed to St Thomas to deliver furniture, clothing and food to the family.

"Just seeing his face, although he is bottling up the joy to say 'I now have a home', that is so overwhelming, and this is our Christmas gift," Johnson said.

She explained that on seeing the article, Food For the Poor immediately dispatched social field officer Myrtle Brown to St Thomas to determine how best they could assist Nashawn, and it was then they discovered that the family was living in a less than suitable dwelling.

The construction services, she said, moved quickly to ensure that the house would be finished in time for the family to move in for Christmas. Work began a week ago on the foundation and on Saturday the workmen constructed the house and returned on Sunday to paint it and apply the finishing touches.

"It is such a good feeling to see lives transform and I know he will in turn positively impact the lives of others," Johnson said of Nashawn.

The organisation will also be looking to see how best they can assist the mother to establish an income-generating project which can either be in the areas of farming or livestock.

"We are still assessing, and based on what she wants to do we will help her," Johnson said.

Brown, who did the assessment, said she was impressed that Nashawn was able to excel under such conditions.

"He is really a trying student who wants to reach somewhere," she said.

"It is an overwhelming feeling today... looking in his face and seeing the smile, you can see the depth of gratitude, and I am so happy for them," she said.

Brown said she was heartened to hear how well the school officials spoke of Nashawn and his drive to excel, despite the odds.

"This is my passion, because I know what it is to have a rough start in life and to see others help," she said.

Food For the Poor housing field officer Junior Reid said seeing the gratitude on the faces of beneficiaries is what gives him the greatest satisfaction.

"Going out each day to see the different cases, some greater than others, and knowing we try to select the most needy, and although sometimes it might take a little while to get to them, when you can deliver like today there is no greater joy," an elated Reid told the Observer.

Under the new Food For the Poor housing programme, beneficiaries also get a water tank to ensure they have water for their toilets as well as a solar panel to provide overhead lighting for those persons who are unable to connect to the Jamaica Public Service grid.

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