Mavarene Davy-Gordon Tramples the Odds
Born and raised in St Mary to a single mother, and one of nine children, life for Marvarene Davy-Gordon was rough. The family was poor, and she remembers that there were people who both thought and said that she would never come to anything good. But at the age of 10, she knew that she wanted to become a nurse, and graduate from the University of the West Indies. She was determined to make this happen, and despite the odds and everything working against her, Davy-Gordon made sure she never gave up.
Her mother worked on a plantation and the money she earned was not enough to send them all to school at once. Thus, when most children opted to stay home from school on Fridays, which was the norm in her hometown, Davy-Gordon ensured she didn't.
"That was when the principal would ask current affairs questions during devotion. If you got them right, then you would win books, pencils and so on. That was one of the ways that I got things for school," she told Flair in a recent interview.
These came in handy and Davy-Gordon worked hard. So hard that her principal at Mount Angus All-Age, Owen Knight, recommended her as one of the nine students to attend Jose Marti Technical High School when it just opened. But that was not to come to pass. Because her mother was unable to afford the expenses, she had to remain at Mount Angus All-Age.
Davy-Gordon was determined to get into the traditional high-school system. She saved every penny she earned selling oranges and grated coconuts. When she got accepted to Guy's Hill Secondary School, she knew her mother could not afford it, so she asked her neighbour to help her make her uniform (the neighbour's child was attending the institution). Unlike Mount Angus, Guy's Hill was nine miles away and if she missed the bus or could not find the money to pay the fare, she would have to walk to school.
Travelling such distances every day was taking a toll on her. When she was in grade eight, the principal allowed her to move in with her. It made life easier. However, by the 10th grade at 16 years old Davy-Gordon not only disappointed herself, but those who believed in her. She became pregnant.
It was a devastating blow.
"At first I was just in denial. Then I did not know what to do. I thought about abortion and wondered how my mother would take it," she explained.
She returned home, but did not immediately tell her mother of her dilemma. When she finally did, she told Flair that to say her mother was disappointed was an understatement. She was enraged. She recalled getting punished severely and her mother telling her that she had no intention of helping her raise a child.
After having her first child, Cameka, she did whatever she had to make ends meet. She went back to grating coconuts to make coconut oil, and also received some help from the mother of her child's father, who encouraged her to leave St Mary to better herself.
"At the time, I did not want to leave Cameka, and it took a little convincing to do so," but she did leave her with her paternal godmother and went to Kingston.
Davy-Gordon started out as a domestic worker, along with four of her friends, but she knew that was not what she wanted to do.
She then worked at a garment factory, and sold different items in several locations from school gates to Coronation Market. She did that for 13 years, marrying the father of her last two children, and her first child moved in with her.
However, Davy-Gordon still did not feel fulfilled. She told Flair that there was an emptiness in her as if something was missing and she wanted to fill it. Then she remembered her childhood dream of becoming a nurse. National Academy was looking for individuals who wanted to be trained in Practical Nursing and she registered. It was not what she wanted, but it was a start. The timing for school and work clashed, and having three children to take care of, Davy-Gordon chose work. Wilmott School of Nursing had a night course that could facilitate her working and studying, so she completed her Practical Nursing studies there, which also equipped her with training in geriatric care and midwifery.
While she had no money to pay her school fee at the time, the institution allowed her to continue. After completing her training, she went to work at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) as a ward assistant. She saved her first three months' salary and paid Wilmott School of Nursing for her training. Her plan was to do her best to ensure that her children attended college and then she would try to further her education. But at a parent-teachers association meeting at her older daughter's school - Meadowbrook High School - she thought, why wait?
"The speaker said that we should never use our children as an excuse to not further ourselves. That we must work with them and improve ourselves as well." Davy-Gordon took note and did just that.
She used the same CXC books she had bought for her children to do her CXC examinations. She was told that she needed only three to enrol as a nurse's assistant, but every time she went she was told she needed one more. After receiving five CXC's she realised she had enough to enrol at Brown's Town Community College whose nursing programme was in collaboration with the University of the West Indies. She tried to save her first year's tuition, but she knew that she could not afford the three years. She went and asked the personnel manager at KPH even though she had never seen them give a nurse a grant. She was given three years' fully paid tuition and two years' salary. She worked hard and got her degree in nursing as a registered nurse with upper second-class honours.
Her dream was coming to pass and she was not only becoming a nurse, but she was going to walk across the stage at the UWI campus - a university graduate. Her mother got to see her cross that stage 38 years later than she had planned, but it happened. Her dream had come true.
She also ensured that all her children did the same. Her first child is an author and motivational speaker, her second, Najwa Gordon, is also a nurse and her son, Noel Gordon Jr, is an auto electrician.
But this is not where the story ends for Davy-Gordon. She wants to further her studies and do her masters in nursing education so that she can tutor. She sometimes makes presentations alongside her daughter to help young mothers. She has held a health fair in her community of Olympic Gardens for the past three years, noting that it is important to give back.
Davy-Gordon is of the firm belief that no one should ever give up on their dreams - irrespective of the circumstances and the roadblocks, one can always find a way.