His journey to becoming a medical doctor was not an easy one, so Dr. Doneilo Thomas is now focused on helping youth from his community, Nannyville Gardens in St. Andrew, to access support similar to that which helped him to achieve his goal.
The Camperdown High School past student says the elation he felt when he was accepted into the University of the West Indies, Mona, to study for the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) in 2010, was followed by worry, due to the cost of the programme, which is more than $1 million annually.
Dr. Thomas tells JIS News that his Mentor at the time told him that she would work steadfastly to enable him to start and complete his university education.
“She introduced me to the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) and I got a scholarship that was geared towards inner-city youth. I told them that I had $1.2 million to pay and that the UWI could deregister me. They heard my plea and they made big contributions from 2010 to 2015 to help me with my education,” he says.
Dr. Thomas is one of 8,000 youth across the island that received financial support from the now-ended programme to fund their secondary and tertiary tuition fees.
Although he received financial assistance throughout the years from the CSJP and other persons, he faced a massive setback when he was not able to complete his programme in the five years.
“I faced some problems in 2015 and I didn’t finish in the time for the degree, because of financial issues. I was depressed seeing people that I was in class with finishing and becoming doctors and I wasn’t one of them,” he says.
The CSJP was again a beacon of hope for Dr. Thomas, providing the well-needed funds, and he was finally able to finish his programme in 2017.
“They looked at the sum of money that I owed and they helped to clear it. When CSJP rescued me financially in 2017, I only had six days to study for the exam that people typically take months to prepare for, and I only had my 2015 knowledge to rely on, but I was able to rebound and use my understanding. I did my exam and was successful,” he tells JIS News.
Reflecting on his journey, Dr. Thomas hailed the role that the CSJP played in his professional pursuits over the years.
“You have a lot of persons in the ‘garrison’ that have the same attributes as me, but they just want a chance to show what they can do, and the organisation brought me through some dark places in university that I never knew I would emerge from, so they helped a whole lot; they carried me from the start to the end,” he says.
The medical doctor is now focused on moving his career forward and giving back to his community.
“Nannyville is a community that you have to be very smart to thrive, and there are a lot of youth in the community that use their brain a lot, but they need a chance to use it for something good. We as youth are the ones that have to step up and help with educating the rest and letting them look at you and aspire to be more than what they are,” he tells JIS News.
The CSJP was a 19 year-old social intervention initiative that was activated in three phrases by the Government of Jamaica. The programme, which operated in 50 communities across the island, officially ended earlier this year.
The tuition support aspect of the programme provided over $100 million in grants and scholarships to address joblessness and lack of employability in the volatile inner-city communities in which the CSJP operated.