Dawn Marie Roper: Woman with the Heart of Gold
"You are brought into this world to fulfil, your life. Life has to be more than a job, it has to edify or help someone else's life - contribute to something." This is Dawn Marie Roper's mantra, and she has lived up to it, resulting in her earning a scholarship for the Global Change Leaders Program for Women.
The Global Change Leaders Program for Women is a seven-week programme to help women in developing countries who are in leadership positions and working to help their country.
It is offered by Coady Institute's International Centre for Women's Leadership, where participants are taught real-world experiences, and focuses on Coady's core thematic areas. Due to the fact that it is a global programme, women are exposed to a wide range of cultures and different scenarios and ways to achieve the same goal.
Out of 7,000 applicants, Roper was among the 19 women chosen for the programme. Roper is very excited and looking forward to the programme, which begins later this month in Canada, as she hopes to put her expertise into Mensana (of which she is the chairperson),
which is a support group for families with a member who has a mental illness.
"Since 2011, I have been a member of the 51 per cent coalition - a group of women from all strata of society who came together to advocate for equal participation of women in decision-making in the highest spheres in Jamaica. It was through this that I became aware of the Coady Institute's leadership programme. It was with a huge leap of faith that I applied for the scholarship, knowing that the odds of being accepted were very small," she admitted to Flair.
However, she knew that she needed this for Mensana and pursued it. With this approval, she expects to move Mensana forward by leaps and bounds.
Roper is very passionate about Mensana, as it deals with something of which she has first-hand knowledge, having a member of her family who suffers from a mental illness. That was how she initially learnt of the group. But it is not only her experience that has encouraged her work in the group, but also her love for giving back.
She admits that there is something about giving back that makes her feel so fulfilled and overjoyed.
"I know that it might be clichÈ, but I have proven it to be true - giving is much better than receiving," Roper admitted. She recalled to Flair her experience in Christmas of 2013. "I am a part of God's Hands Ministries and they did a community feeding at Common Sense off Red Hills. It was my best Christmas ever! I felt so fulfilled so happy that Christmas."
It is this spirit and will to give that keeps her going.
Roper spent most of her childhood in Port Antonio, Portland, where she was born. After leaving George Headley Primary, she attended St Andrew High School for Girls, and did a diploma in Office Administration and Technology at the University of Technology (UTech).
Roper is currently working from the general manager's office at the National Energy Solutions Limited, formerly Rural Electrification Programme as a writer. She is also studying for her bachelor's degree in guidance and counselling at the Jamaica Theological Seminary.
But her studies do not end there. "My plans are to continue studies in family psychology and conflict transformation to the doctoral level. These will supply me with the formal training to deal with the problems that attack and destroy families in Jamaica even while I work to help affected persons find solutions. One of these problems is mental illness, a terrible challenge for which not enough is being done to help families cope," she admitted.
She is also very involved in her church. "I worship at Fellowship Tabernacle where, in collaboration with the women's group there, I had organised a panel of female counsellors from the ranks of caring and experienced members, to help hurting women and girls from all walks of life," she told Flair.
When Roper is not busy devoting her time to help others, she is indulging in art.
"Being an avid art lover and having had extensive exposure to Haiti's beautiful art culture, I started a small art dealership called Happy Walls Galleries which is currently just a hobby," she admits.
Roper's lays down and lives an exemplary lifestyle for young women to follow and would leave two things to live by - never fear and never put yourself down.
"If there is one thing I want people to know is that fear is the enemy of everything. I know this from personal experience. It stifles progress and robs you of quality of life. Never fear. Learn. Even with mental illnesses, the first thing that people should do is to try to understand what they are. Determine what is really happening, then set about dealing with it, based on what you know, and with the help of knowledgeable and experienced persons. With information, people can manage anything. And one last thing. Never put yourself down, no matter how bad things get for you. Always keep looking up."