Beverly Hunter’s JOYSunday, January 22, 2017
By KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
THERE is never a moment that she is without a smile or not trying to impact the lives of youth in the area of education.
As a result, young people are drawn to her and never cease to express their gratitude for the impact she has left on their lives.
Beverly Hunter, 58, was born in Kingston and raised in May Pen, Clarendon, where she spent much of her childhood thinking about how she could improve the life of at least one individual.
"As a child growing up in the earlier years, when I was probably six or seven years old, my grandparents would say ‘This is for you, when I die everything here is for you’. I would reply, ‘When I die everything here is for the children,’ not knowing which children I was talking about. Now, when I look at it, everything is for the children. It gives me joy. So I am always interacting with young people. It gives me a certain amount of energy. I can share, I can laugh and provide support at the same time," she said.
After leaving Glenmuir High School and Clarendon College, Hunter enrolled at Church Teachers’ College in Mandeville, where she studied to become a Spanish teacher. Shortly after, she took her first job at Knox College, which lasted for seven years, before moving on to Vere Technical for six years.
During that period, Hunter got involved with the AFS Intercultural Programme where she worked as hosting officer for international students before travelling to Costa Rica to teach English.
"This was voluntary work and I was exposed to numerous cultures. But everything has some form of education in it; the bottom line was education and how much I could impact that," she said.
But for a few years that passion was slanted as Hunter did a stint at the Bureau of Standards. However, in 2001 an opportunity came for her to work at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Student Records. Shortly after she moved to Admissions, before working as an outreach officer to her current post as administrative officer in the Office of the Board for Undergraduate Studies at the UWI Regional Headquarters.
Hunter credits her passion for wanting to see changes in the life of young people and children.
"I love reaching out to people, listening, trying to understand. I cannot provide the solutions, but however I can help, I will. Somewhere about 2010 or 2011 when I came over to the board of undergraduate studies, at the time not many scholarships were coming to Jamaica. I’d say to Ann-Marie Grant, the executive director of the American Foundation for the University of the West Indies, ‘We need to increase our numbers, can we get some more scholarships?’ Eventually we moved up to around 24, then one year we gave 54. Students were overwhelmed because their situation is not one that allows them to attend the university comfortably, and many times some students were left out. But my attitude was, how can we reach out to the donors and help these children? I eventually came up with a way to have the students say thank you to the donors and keep in touch with the university. Educating our youngsters helps them to grow and appreciate life, helps them to find themselves and to be able to make good decisions. It helps them to build their country because they are [the future]. We will move on, retire and pass on. Education must be such that younger people will continue."
For Hunter, if there is something you can do to help yourself or someone else to have a better life, you should do it.
And so, in 2011 she started the Joy of Youth (JOY) Foundation to reach out to children in State care, particularly the Jamaica National Children’s Home, and teach them how to play musical instruments.
"This came about after going to church and observing that some children would come, lots of them, and always go to the bathroom and just stare in the mirror admiring themselves. One day when I asked where they were from, I was told a children’s home. I kept observing them until one day I noticed one of the girls wearing a Cleopatra slipper on one foot and a different slipper on the other foot. It drew my attention to the others and I realised there was a need. People love to say you come to church not for your clothes, but while that is true, these kids are human beings and they are sensitive," said Hunter, who also serves as executive director of JOY.
"Another Sunday I sat and watched a little boy tear every page in his Bible and I cried. I told him to stop and he just continued tearing it. I made a promise to myself to find out how I could help, and I remember saying, ‘It is not about criticising, but finding a way that you can help.’ I called the CDA, visited some homes, saw what they needed and had a big Christmas treat. The following year — in 2011 — I started a music programme in the home, and I got trained musicians and lecturers to teach the children. We started them on violins, and now the programme has grown to the point where we have a room dedicated just for instruments at the home," Hunter said.
When not at work, Hunter can be found reading, watching HGTV, CNN, Food Network, doing research on universities to model their programmes at UWI, travelling, or simply spending time with her family.
"As a child I didn’t get to travel, and now I’m inspired by cultures and different languages. My children are both doctors, so when I get to spend time with them I cherish it," she said.
She said her daily prayer is to see more people reaching out to help youngsters and children who live in State-run institutions, as there is no magic bullet to giving these children a comfortable life.