Thu | Aug 13, 2020

Barefoot runner gets heart’s desire - House given to 18-year-old who won 5K, family overjoyed

Published:Saturday | July 25, 2020 | 12:21 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Raheim Powell is flanked by his mother Ann-Marie Douglas and brother Ryan after receiving the keys to his new home from Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie. The youngster received the keys yesterday at a handover ceremon
Raheim Powell is flanked by his mother Ann-Marie Douglas and brother Ryan after receiving the keys to his new home from Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie. The youngster received the keys yesterday at a handover ceremony held at Watson Grove in St Catherine.

The exploits of 18-year-old Raheim Powell, who ran a 5K barefooted in 2018 from Greater Portmore to Spanish Town in St Catherine and back to the starting point of the race, have earned him and his family a comfortable home.

After winning the race, Powell had disclosed publicly that his family was in need of a proper home and his request was heard by Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie and officials from two municipal corporations.

The keys to the two-bedroom Pisces Close house in Watson Grove, Portmore, were handed over to him and his mother, Ann-Marie Douglas, yesterday with much fanfare.

The house was built through a joint effort between the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, the Portmore Municipal Corporation and the St Catherine Municipal Corporation.

A Jamaica Observer article in 2018 initially highlighted the young man’s plight. Powell had shared that he was unable to further his education after grade six because he did not have a birth certificate.

The HEART NSTA/Trust met with Powell and conducted several diagnostic tests which allowed him to return to school and eventually learn a skill.

A man of very few words, Powell reflected that it was because of his courage to run without footwear that he was able to put smiles on the faces of his mother, brother and sister.

“All I did was run barefoot,” he told The Gleaner.

During a Gleaner interview with Powell, his mother, Douglas, chimed in explaining how she was riding throughout the entire community looking for her son, who was already on his way to winning a race with more than 600 competitors.

“I am proud of him. He was running barefoot and I didn’t even know he was running,” she said.

“Riding back I saw a nice young lady who came asking if I am Raheim’s mommy and I said, ‘yes’, and she said, ‘he won the race’.”

She was particularly glad about the positive development, explaining that she could no longer endure her previous living condition.

“It was not so pretty because I raise Raheim, Ryan and Kimberly without a father and I have to hustle to make them go to school. Sometimes I cannot send them to school and some of the times I can’t even find food to give them,” she divulged.

“We used to live around the back. Whey day when the rain come, the water came up very high because the gully around there needs to clean.”

Minister McKenzie, in congratulating Powell, called him the “man of the house”, adding that the new house was one of 35 built across the island through the ministry in the past year and a half.

He said that the intention was to build 100 more houses islandwide for the less fortunate.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com