MAVIESHA Blake-Rolle is building the life of her dreams in The Bahamas, despite being knocked down several times. The Jamaican woman, who is originally from Portmore, St Catherine, was working in a local financial institution before she got married. But after meeting her now ex-husband and moving north with him in marital bliss, she soon found herself stranded in an abusive marriage.
“The abuse was physical and emotional. I didn't have any family or friends so he had me isolated and cornered,” she related to All Woman in reflection. “It's not something that I ever had to experience at home. The fact that I only had him was a way in which he could control me, because I had to rely on him.”
But instead of retreating to Jamaica in fear when things took a turn for the worst, the courageous woman decided to remain in The Bahamas, which was her son's home.
“And by the grace of God I was able to get myself out of the situation and find a job and be able to provide for my son,” a triumphant Blake-Rolle said. “Eventually I met my current husband, and we now have a seven-year-old together.”
But just when she felt things were going well — she had a great marriage, two lovely children and a job working at the ferry company on her safe little island of Abaco — another unforeseen disaster happened. In fact it was the worst natural disaster in the country's history.
“I've never experienced anything like that before. When I tell you it was horrible, trust me,” she said of Hurricane Dorian, the category 5 hurricane that ravaged The Bahamas, beginning with the Abaco Islands, at the beginning of September last year. “Just looking outside, it was just white. You couldn't see anything, just white. Even now if it rains for a while it brings back the feeling of being in Dorian.”
Though she was fortunate to have lived on a hill on Abaco, and was even able to house some of her neighbours when their homes were completely flooded, the catastrophe will forever be etched in her mind.
“I lost two of my co-workers and one of the guys who stayed with us lost his father. And, there was a dressmaker there who was a Jamaican and to this day they still haven't found her, so she is considered missing…” she said.
The damage to the little island was so great that like many of the residents, Blake-Rolle and her family had to relocate to Grand Bahama.
“So now, we are trying to see if we can find our way back to Abaco because that's where home is,” she shared.
As if this quest was not hard enough, the COVID-19 pandemic made things much harder economically.
“It's always been in me to be an entrepreneur — from growing up with my grandmother in Jamaica, who I don't recall ever working for anybody,” Blake-Rolle said. “I was already doing mascots and so on, but after this whole COVID-19 situation I said let me do something else that I love and really put my energy into it.”
And so it was that her clothing line, Custom Creations by Mav, was created. The resourceful mother also brings joy to children with her cartoon character mascots for parties and small events. “I can do Dora or Spongebob or Elmo by myself, but I can't do Spiderman,” she laughed. “My husband has to do that one.”
Blake-Rolle is not only planning new services and purchasing tools to grow her businesses, but she is also furthering her education in the face of adversity.
“I'm studying at the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean, where I've been attending online since 2016,” she shared. “I have about 15 credits to go.”
Having fought hard to find her footing in a foreign land that was not necessarily open and friendly to her as a Jamaican at first, Blake-Rolle now considers The Bahamas to be her second home, as her children have grown accustomed to roaming the peaceful islands as they wish.
While she rides out the effects of the hurricane and the pandemic, she is doing her best to give back to both of her island homes.
“The hurricane put things into perspective for me because I've always wanted to give back, but didn't know how,” she said. “I'm looking at ways in which I can help some families back home in Jamaica, especially in terms of education. I also did an anniversary sale on T-shirts recently, so I'm going to help two kids in Abaco with their school supplies.”