Strickland Smith — a landscaper making a difference
STRICKLAND Smith, landscaper at Sandals Grande Riviera and recipient of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association's (JHTA) 2014 Hotel Worker of the Year award, said he lives by the words 'you don't chase honour, you work for it' and believes this has helped him to be the outstanding employee he has become.
Affectionately called 'Deh Bout' or 'Stricky' by his colleagues, Smith is described as a flamboyant, animated lover of life, and quite rightly so. On any given day he will announce his arrival by ringing out his popular greeting "deh bout!"
From the humblest of beginnings, Smith was born and raised in Mines, St Ann, by his grandmother, now deceased, who was a shopkeeper.
"Yes, my grandmother grew me. She had me from I was five months old," he said.
He described her as a tower of strength and recalled her clearly encouraging him to work hard for whatever he wanted by standing on his own feet. Smith attributes his work ethics and strength of character to her advice.
"She inspired me to be a good person," he stated proudly.
Reminiscing on his early years, Smith said, "my grandmother wasn't educated, but I remember she taught me ABCs with the little book".
He remembers his grandmother as a faithful Christian, who ensured that he went to Sunday school on a regular basis, and believes this has helped to shape his character and his fear of God.
Smith also firmly believes in the value of hard work and said this is also one of the qualities he admired about his grandmother.
"She would cook and sell food to the cane cutters in St Ann, and I had to help her so I never really go school as often as I was supposed to," he recalled.
Smith attended Mines Basic school, Mount Zion All-Age and Marcus Garvey Technical High School, following which he received training in tailoring.
"I did tailoring for many years, but it wasn't really working out and that is how I ended up in the hotel industry; but I don't regret it," he said.
Smith's beginnings in the hotel industry was at the then Jamaica Grande hotel in Ocho Rios in 2000. He was made redundant when it closed in 2004, but fortunately for him he was employed that same year as a member of the kitchen staff at the then Sandals Ocho Rios, which later became Sandals Grande Riviera.
"When my grandmother got sick I asked to be transferred to landscaping so I wouldn't have to work nights, because I had to take care of her," he said. It was then that his boundless love for landscaping began to blossom and is reflected in the number of awards he has earned over the years.
Smith has been the recipient of the most environmentally aware award some six times, in addition to most improved award, the smile for courtesy award, the Sandals Foundation monthly award, the Sandals Foundation annual award, and in 2012 was nominated for the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) service excellence award. This year, however, Smith has upped his game by walking away with the coveted JHTA hotel worker of the year award and boasts the title of most outstanding hotel worker in the island.
Smith describes himself as a jovial person who loves to make people laugh.
"I am a celebrity," he said with a laugh. "Who loves God. I'm loyal, passionate about what I do, caring, loving and hard-working. I've never been absent once. I've worked here for nine years but have never been absent once."
Smith has no regrets about his job, but remains sad that his grandmother is not alive to share in his success.
"I regret that my grandmother isn't here to see my achievements. That little baby she took when he was five months old has become a man and is making her proud." Smith said, adding that he was not supported by his parents and wished they had played a greater role in his development.
"I didn't get the education I desired, and if my parents helped me I would have. But I give thanks for where I am just the same," he said. According to Smith, he loves landscaping and will assist others in their departments, but will never go elsewhere.
Smith is equally passionate about his place of employment "Sandals does not limit us, I enjoy working with this company. Special thanks to Mr Brian Roper, Ian Spencer, Lyndsay Isaacs, Shelly-Ann Whitely-Clarke, and Julian Pink for all the motivation and inspiration."
"I love the guests and love what I do. I love working with people from various cultures because I learn a lot of inspiring things," the ace landscaper said.
Smith related the day he won the award:" When I heard my name call I couldn't move, but at the same time I believed I would win based on the interview and based on my past awards. I was confident I would win it."