IT'S one thing to give from what you have, but it is an entirely different story to still want to help others, despite going through your own season of tremendous loss. Shanique Gray, sales representative at Beaches Negril's photo studio EPIX, is the true definition of compassion, resilience and strength. She has been ever so consistent in offering help to others, even when she needed it the most.
Volunteerism is one of her greatest passions and when Gray lost a close relative and subsequently her home to a fire one dreadful night in October 2018, it was no surprise that this was one of the main things that helped her to deal with such a major tragedy.
“Everything had happened so fast; my family and I saw our possessions going up in flames. We had nowhere to go but somehow we managed to all find somewhere to stay that night. The next day we got news that my cousin had also passed. I returned to work that same day with only three bags in my possession. The management and staff at Beaches Negril, however, immediately took care of me. I was offered a place to stay until I could find somewhere safe and comfortable to live, a gesture I will never forget,” she said.
From working as an animator at Beaches Negril in 2013, then transitioning to EPIX as a sales representative five years later, Gray's job has her interacting with guests on resort and relating to them through her creative and bubbly personality.
“This is the tourism industry and my job is to ensure the guests are happy. I loved my job as an animator, dressing up as my favourite character and seeing the joy it brings to everyone. After my tragic experience, it was hard to put on a show to make others happy when I myself was not. I cried a lot and often times had to give myself some serious pep talks, but I went out there and did what I had to do, and this was fulfilling for me,” Gray added.
After finally finding somewhere to live shortly after the terrible ordeal, Gray shared that for two years following this, she had more painful experiences. She was almost a victim of sexual assault, after two of her male friends forcefully entered her home on two different occasions. But despite all of this and still trying to heal from that night, she remained steadfast in her love of giving back to others through her talents and also through volunteerism with the Sandals Foundation.
“When I had first heard of the Sandals Foundation in 2013, I was encouraged to volunteer with them; my eagerness to help and to give of my time fostered a love. The most memorable experience for me was the Breast Cancer Awareness initiative done by the Negril region in 2018. I got to dress up as my favourite character and the reception from the people in the communities across Hanover and Westmoreland is something I will remember forever,” Gray added.
Though many months had passed; behind all of her philanthropic efforts, warm personality and tough interior, Gray still struggled to trust others. She shared that many nights she would shower in the dark and jump from her sleep because of fear. However, she was determined to impact others positively regardless of what her reality was. Giving of her time and lending a helping hand, despite her own internal battles, served as an avenue for her mental and emotional therapy.
Now three years later, Gray is very much on her way to shaping the trajectory of her life on a more positive note. Living happily in a home where she feels safe and though she is still on the journey of healing, this Good Samaritan is now studying to become a practical nurse. So it is safe to say she will always find a way to help others.
When asked if she will be practising nursing directly in the medical field or in tourism, she simply answered, “wherever God wants me”.
If you ever happen to be at the Beaches resort, Gray is known by name, character and her warm smile. Though she has extended gratitude to her Beaches Negril family for their continued support, it is no doubt that her work family is equally grateful for the light she has brought to the resort, team members, guests and communities.