This country is blessed with many outstanding citizens — people who excel in their chosen fields and highlight on the world stage the boundless talent that contribute to making Jamaica a nation which punches way above its weight.
One such individual was Mrs Sarah Newland-Martin who passed away last Wednesday.
As our story on Mrs Newland-Martin’s passing stated, she never cared that she was disabled, and for 75 years she showed Jamaica that a physical disability was not an impediment to excellence.
In 1965, Mrs Newland-Martin was named Jamaica’s Sportswoman of the Year for being the only woman with a disability to complete the ‘Cross The Harbour’ race — a two-and-a-half-mile swim in Kingston Harbour that proved a challenge for many able-bodied people.
She followed that up with an athletic career that saw her representing Jamaica at the international level, winning almost 40 medals, including Paralympics Gold, and setting world and Pan American records.
Despite Mrs Newland-Martin’s outstanding achievements as a sportswoman, it was for her selfless stewardship of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Kingston that she will be most remembered.
People who knew Mrs Newland-Martin well will quickly tell you that she had an admirable ability to connect with young people and help them realise that they are special human beings.
Indeed, Mr Allan Marsh, chairman of the Kingston YMCA, in paying tribute to Mrs Newland-Martin, told us that under her leadership ‘The Y’ developed into one of the foremost non-government organisations in Jamaica, positively transforming the lives of thousands of people from all walks of life.
Said Mr Marsh: “She made an enormous contribution to the Kingston YMCA’s rich history of community service, which is evident in various programmes including the Youth Development Programme (formerly the Street Corner Boys’ Programme), Leadership Development Training Programme for youths 14-20 years, summer camp, sporting programmes including aquatics, martial arts, badminton and services to persons with disabilities.”
He also noted that Mrs Newland-Martin was a social worker who gave dedicated, life-long service to the Rotary movement, the Church, the YMCA movement in the Caribbean, Latin America and worldwide.
She was also the first woman general secretary of the YMCA which she served for more than 30 years, holding that position until the time of her passing.
The general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU), the Reverend Merlyn Hyde-Riley, told us that Mrs Newland-Martin committed much of her life to raising awareness and providing education about disabilities. She chaired the JBU’s Ministry to Persons with Disabilities Committee up to earlier this year, spearheading a project which produced a handbook entitled Church of All and for All, which speaks to the need for societal integration, inclusion and interaction for people with disabilities.
Given her multi-faceted contribution to her country and people, it was not surprising that in 1980 the Government of Jamaica invested Mrs Newland-Martin with the Order of Distinction in the class of officer.
That was an honour and recognition well deserved, and presented on behalf of a grateful nation.
Our condolence goes to Mrs Newland-Martin’s family, friends, and associates. For her life of tremendous service we say a big thank you.