Francine Staple - bound for greatness
Francine Melonie Staple has had a rough life. Neglected by her mother at the age of two, she was taken in by a woman in her community, and by age 14 she was a ward of the State.
At age 18, she became pregnant. Fast-forward 26 years, and Staple is the manager for security and safety at Kingston Container Terminal (KCT) based at Port Bustamante in Kingston.
After graduating from Excelsior High School, this self-motivated single parent completed her studies at Elatho's Business College, the University of the West Indies' School of Continuing Studies and the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.
Today, she is on a mission to inspire other youth who have started life the way she did. "I would like persons to know, especially those in (state) homes and pregnant teens, that they should not allow their present circumstances to dictate their plans for the future," she told Flair in a recent interview.
"These girls in need of care and protection should set short-, medium- and long-term goals, and constantly plan their lives and dream big," she advised.
Born and raised in Enfield District, Gordon Town, St Andrew, Staple described her childhood years as "bittersweet".
"I was given away by my mom at age two, because she had a nervous breakdown from a marriage and was not able to take care of me. I was informally adopted by a woman in the community who was known to informally adopt other people's children and care for them," Staple recalled.
Through this experience, Staple discovered at an early age that education was her way out of poverty. "The woman whom my mother gave me to sold The Gleaner, so I had to start reading from an early age," Staple shared.
Staple knew she wanted a better life so she ran away from home and was placed in the Elsie Bernard Home for Girls, which changed her life forever. "Living in the Elsie Bernard Home for Girls was fabulous, if I had to live my life again, I would go back there. It was the perfect place for me. There were other girls there that I could relate to," Staple confessed.
generosity from others
She was fortunate to have
benefited from the generosity of several persons and organisations. She singled out the Big Sister programme that was in place at the Elsie Bernard Home. Staple said it was there that she met a very helpful couple - Dr Clinton Browne and his wife, Joan - who employed her in their family
"I was able to benefit from their professional guidance, in terms of workplace ethics, and this has carried me through to today," she said.
The Women's Centre, the Children's Services (now the Child Development Agency), the St Andrew Business and Professional Women's Club and KCT are entities she also credited for helping her through those difficult years.
Towards the end of her tenure at Excelsior High School, Staple became pregnant with her son. Not long after, she was forced to leave the home because of a remark that was passed by a member of the club, "'We are not here to take care of mothers and their babies". "And so I felt obligated to leave and find somewhere else for myself and my child," she explained.
That period was the worst of her life. "I had my son after Hurricane Gilbert December 2, 1988. Nothing can take that period of hunger (away). I had nothing to eat, so I had to go back to Gordon Town, which was not a good experience," she added.
She eventually had to leave Gordon Town again. So on her way from Gordon Town she met a woman in the bus who fell in love with her son, and offered her a place to live. It turned out to be a tent pitched on the land above Church on the Rock. "That was how my other home began," Staple confessed.
Now with a home of her own in the New Kingston area, the KCT security boss is making sure she gives back to those who are less fortunate, particularly those at the Elsie Bernard Home.
Staple disclosed that she is leading a drive to raise funds that will be used to purchase a number of things for the girls there, "to make their lives a bit more comfortable", she explained.
The strength of a woman
A strong woman, who does not flinch at everything that comes her way, she has now achieved some of the goals she had set during her struggles. "My childhood experiences have made me the strong woman I am today," she disclosed.
Staple lives by the mantra, 'stay focused and keep your eyes on the prize, do not focus on the messenger but on the message'.
Initially, she had dreams of becoming an attorney-at-law and teacher, which she fulfils as an adjunct lecturer at the Caribbean Maritime Institute, and does private security lectures to police, soldiers, members of the security industry, and workers at Jamaica Customs.
She also hopes to achieve her doctorate in criminology with an emphasis on globalisation and security by the end of 2016.
As the woman in charge of security on the port, she plays a significant role in protecting Jamaica's economy as well as guaranteeing the safety of foreign trades. "I am the consummate investigator and I do like investigations," she disclosed.
The first Jamaican woman to receive the Physical Security Professional (PSP) certification, she told Flair. "I do love the security industry and this is what keeps me going every day, I love the adrenaline rush the security profession gives, "she said.
Staple is currently in the process of writing her book - From Insecurity to Security, Memoirs of a former ward of the State, which she hopes to get published before the end of 2016.