Former ward of the State dreams of operating family business
Though she has been separated from her family most of her life, 20-year-old Sahanie Brown is motivated to succeed by the thought of bringing them together.
On Wednesday, Brown, a second-year business administration student at the University of Technology Jamaica, and nine other wards of the State were gifted scholarships from the Children of Jamaica Outreach, Inc.
"There was this life I imagined, I still imagine, living with my siblings. We've all been through the system. We have been there since day one. It was just us and I have this life that I envision for us and that was always my motivation," Brown said. Her desire, she said, is to start a family-owned business with her seven siblings, who are also state wards.
"What CDA [referring to the Child Protection and Family Services Agency] does, they try their best to keep siblings together since we're not with our parents anymore. But first and foremost they have to find somewhere that they are sure you will be taken care of, and you will be safe," she said.
Brown's journey in state care began when she was a toddler. Her first stop was at Walker's Place of Safety, then Maxfield Park Children's Home, and later Yadel, where she lived for the 10 years.
"When I was smaller, I was like, 'Why am I not always with my siblings?' But our well-being comes first, and my officers have always made sure that I at least stay with one of my siblings."
Brown says their saving grace has always been the yearly treats the agency hosts as they knew that would be the only times they spent together.
"It would be like three times a year we'd see each other, so we'd always dream of summer coming, Christmas, Digicel treat ... when we guh King's House all a we siddung and we bond together. Whenever those treats go on, we'd always spend the day talking about what happened, you know, anything significant that happened. We try to keep each other updated on what's going on in our lives," Brown said. "We always keep each other in our prayers. If I know someone that my brother knows, I'd always be like, let him know that I love him and I hope he's keeping safe. That was when we were younger. But now, we have phones and we communicate way more often."
Brown received a scholarship valued at US$5,000, (approximately J$770,500), to help fund her tertiary studies. Brown said that she is beyond grateful for the scholarship that will give her the tools to make her dreams a reality.
"It's indescribable to be honest. I am exceptionally grateful [because] I never imagined this happening. So when my officer called and informed me, I was like 'Wow!'"
Keeping the details of her entrepreneurship plans close to her chest, Brown says her vision is clear in her mind.
"I've always had a vision of where I wanted myself to be, what I wanted to become, and what I wanted. To start it is very much expensive," she joked. "It is going to take a lot of hard work, but the pay off will be very beautiful. We've always wanted to own a family business. I can't say what it is yet but yeah it's coming."