Twenty-two years ago, Andrea Dunkley quit her job as a domestic worker after she heard a voice telling her to “Go and sell food.”
The 67-year-old did just that and doesn't regret it one bit.
Dunkley started selling roast breadfruit – first on the roadside and then she moved inside Christiana Market in Manchester – and has been doing so ever since. Today, she boasts that it's through breadfruit that her six children have been able to finish school and gone on to “big jobs.”
“My daughter, Jody, was going to Knox Prep, then Knox College, and she went through nursing school out of breadfruit. She is now a manager. I funded her out of breadfruit. My daughter Chrissy went through school through this, then she went to HEART in Kingston through this. She is now a secretary. I am a proud mom today. My other daughters Shauna, Camile and Sherylee went to Bellefield and Bamboo All Age. And my one son, who is now in America, went to HEART after high school and then migrated. This is what I did to fund their education. I am so proud,” Dunkley told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.
“I funded them through breadfruit... right through. When Jody was doing SBA (School-Based Assessment), it was out of breadfruit. I sell my roast breadfruit and I threw my partner heavily out of the same breadfruit, because you have to know what you're doing to balance yourself. I had to make preparations for my children schooling. I'd rather not eat to send them to school. I would sell my house to send them to school,” the Christiana resident added.
Dunkley started selling roast breadfruit in 2000, after quitting her job with no clear plan in mind.
“I used to do domestic work and I was in the kitchen at 12:00 one day, and I heard a voice say to me 'go and sell food.' So I asked the other girl who was beside me if she said something to me and she said no. At the time, I did have $20,000 in my dresser drawer and I told the boss that I would not come back to work the Monday,” she recalled to the Sunday Observer.
The boss questioned: “Why, Miss Dunkley?”
And she answered: “I am going to do something for myself.”
Dunkley got paid the following Friday and she didn't return to work.
“The Monday, I took a taxi to St Ann's Bay, and I saw a lot of breadfruit on the trees. I started asking people if they were selling their breadfruit and they said yes. At that time, it was $150 per dozen. So, I bought a carload of it and when I came back to Christiana, it was like two o' clock and I opened the car door and I started selling for like $80, $100, $150 at that time.”
Dunkley told the Sunday Observer that they were sold out in very little time, and as a result, she journeyed back to St Ann's Bay the following day at 6:00 am.
“The people were saying that I could not be coming from Manchester and reaching in St Ann's Bay at that time. But I woke up early and made my way to come back and do my work,” she said.
“I do this every day. It's only Sundays that I don't come out. Nobody else was doing this in the market.”
Before settling in Christiana Market, she was selling along the road and wasn't roasting the breadfruit herself.
“When I first started, I used to bake the breadfruit in Juicy, and they charged me like $30 for one to bake them in their oven. One day I sat down and I said, 'No man, all the profit is going to that man.' The Lord spoke to me and said the same way the chicken is baked in the pan, the breadfruit can cook in there just the same,” she said.
“So, I bought a jerk pan for $7,000 at the time and then I started. I got some fight but mi nuh really mind. Mi like when mi get fight. When yuh get fight, yuh stronger. I used to roast them on the street and the police harassed me, so I found this little place in the market.”
Now, each day, she is up as early as 4:00 am and in the market selling.
“I am grateful. This is where I do everything. It's just breadfruit right through… Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I'm out for church on Sunday, and then I'm back Monday morning. I have three persons who do fish, and they take stock from me in the mornings, so I make sure that when they come, they have their thing prepared for them to go.”
She told the Sunday Observer that she always told her children that she was a lion.
“No matter what comes, I don't go down. You motivate me when you fight me. I go through struggles as many people in here know, but I still don't give up. Sometimes in the mornings, I walk like one mile from my home to the main road at like three o'clock or four o'clock. Me alone and I just put God himself in front of me and I come out and do my thing,” said Dunkley.
She added: “With your hands, your head and the education you achieve, don't depend on anyone. I told my children 'Take up things off the ground just like your mommy and build yourself.' I always tell them. You can do it. You don't have to depend on other persons.”