Dedication: Dedicated to my late father, Everton Melhado Oct.1961-July 2016
Early in my childhood, my parents separated and eventually got divorced. My sister and I went to live with our grandmother in rural Jamaica. We lived in a farming community called James Hill, down a rocky road at the foot of a hill called “Sinking Bottom.”
For years we couldn’t afford modern amenities like electricity and television, and I studied with a kerosene lamp. We used an outside pit latrine and water supply was from neighboring springs or rain water.
My parents tried very hard to provide for us, even though they were separated and each only had secondary education. My mother got pregnant as a teenager and became a domestic helper. My dad did several jobs at various times, including farming. Despite their hard work, it was still really hard financially.
There were days I walked miles to and from high school, which was miles away in the neighboring community. There were days when I sold coconuts in the village and snacks on the school bus in order to make money for school fees. Despite this hardship, I was determined to complete high school.
As a teen, I felt the devastating effects of physical and sexual abuse. Looking back, it feels like my teen years aligned with my home at Sinking Bottom. Eventually I sank further into low self-esteem, marijuana use, feelings of rejection and depression and attempted suicide.
Yet, I was determined to break the cycle of poverty in my family, and rise from the sinking bottom. I was determined to rise. I determined I was going to have University education.
Throughout my life, my grandmother bestowed her decades of wisdom, courage and strength on us, and inspired me to dream big. She inspired me to believe in my unseen potential and to have unwavering faith in God. She taught me to respect others and to look out for the vulnerable.
Today, I am still transforming — like we all are — and still trying to bring about the positive change I want to see in the world. Life is about embracing change and overcoming challenges. Today, I am a Registered Nurse and a midwife, a youth leader, youth advocate, national ambassador and mentor in the Governor General’s ‘I Believe Initiative’. I am also the Founder and Director for a Youth focused NGO Be Inspired International, and the author of two books called, “Be Inspired” and “Seven Secrets of Successful People.”
I am the girl from “Sinking Bottom” who is still rising. In the words of Lupita Nyong’o: “Your dreams are valid and possible.”
#YoungWomenSay is a collaboration between Say It Forward and The Torchlight Collective in support of International Youth Day (#IYD2016). This campaign features blogs from incredible young women from around the world about their experiences overcoming adversity.