Nakeba Brown was only 10 years old when her mother died at age 29, leaving nine children who had to be rescued by the then Child Development Agency (CDA), now the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA).
The trauma of losing her mother at a tender age, being separated from her brothers and sisters and living with strangers, took an emotional toll on her early life, where she stayed by herself and refused to socialise.
Among the persons who sought to comfort her was a pastor who encouraged her to pray, which she did reluctantly.
Gradually, normal life started to set in for young Nakeba, and the first major good thing that she experienced was success in the then Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), now Primary Exit Profile (PEP).
“In my GSAT, I never knew I could become a success,” she shared recently at the 2020 CPFSA Educational Achievement Awards Ceremony, held at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew.
She noted that after mastering her exams it was an “exciting” time to be enrolled at the Old Harbour High School in St. Catherine.
“During my time in State care, I met some phenomenal persons, including wonderful House Mothers,” she told JIS News.
Miss Brown, now a final-year student at the University of the West Indies (UWI), said she only saw her siblings occasionally at children’s treats, which were organised by the agency.
“Those were heart-warming moments, I looked forward to them and held them dear to my heart,” she said.
The Marketing and Psychology student told the audience that wards had to be disciplined while at the Yadel Home for Girls in St. Catherine, where she was raised, and officials there motivated them to always look to a brighter future.
“There were rules that we had to adhere to, and we had to maintain respect to our House Mothers at all times. I was reminded that I was not my situation, and I am not limited to it. With that affirmation, I was motivated. I was limitless in my drive to succeed,” she said.
Miss Brown noted that at high school she was elected Head Girl, while in Grade 11.
“I am a remarkable product of a children’s home. I was a ward of the State, and I hold that to my heart. I used to be offended at being called government pickney, but now, mi good. I was often teased and looked down at because of where I came from, and where I called home. As long as I know who I am, and where I am going, I never allowed what was said to jerk or move me. I didn’t give it any attention,” she said.
Miss Brown related the big moment when she sat the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) subjects.
“I was relaxed and assured, because I studied long and hard,” she said, adding that then Manager of the Home, Kareen Mignott-Dixon, stood with them like a real mother, telling them that they would be successful, and even shedding tears when the results came.
“She came to manage the Home and met 20 girls with 20 different backgrounds, and got to love us, and saw that we could become good things with our lives,” Miss Brown said.
She also commended Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CPFSA, Rosalee Gage-Grey.
“You work for us as if you gave birth to us. Even when we were not behaving as we should, you still cared. I got everything I needed. I was sent to extra classes, and I even received private tutoring,” she said.
Miss Brown said she and the top awardees at the ceremony were overcomers and achievers.
“We have what it takes to reach our goals. Everything that you want is right within you. Life is what you make of it. Being a ward of the State does not limit you to achieve anything. Believe that greatness is within you,” she asserts.
The CPFSA offers a range of services to children and families, serving children 0-18 years who are declared by the Courts as being in need of care and protection, children who are awaiting the outcome of Court proceedings, as well as families experiencing difficulties raising their children.