Sat | Feb 27, 2021

Jamaicans urged to nurture spirit of hope - Rhodes Scholar driven to avoid prison road

Published:Friday | January 22, 2021 | 12:08 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

Jamaica’s 2021 Rhodes Scholar, Fitzroy Wickham, who hails from Orange Hill, St Ann, lost his father to cancer when he was just two years old.

He and his sister, Kimberly, then grew up in a single-parent home, headed by mom Florence.

“I was acutely aware from an early age just how severely bleak my future looked,” Wickham said yesterday as he offered a rousing testimony on his life’s journey at the 41st annual National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, held under the theme ‘Keep Hope Alive’.

“No one had to tell me out loud, but I understood from the many looks of sympathy – and from the statistics I had learnt growing up – that my future was most likely headed in the direction of our prison system and our cemetery,” said the York Castle High School alumnus.

Wickham did not want any pity and was determined to beat the odds, firmly believing that God was the master of his destiny.

With the family grounded in faith, his mother was of the belief that the Lord was a father to the fatherless and a defender of the widows.

“I truly believed that if He were my daddy, and if He owned the cattle on a thousand hills, then no one could convince me that I was poor. We were cash poor, but never poor in spirit,” Wickham said.

He charged Jamaican youth to invest in themselves, expanding their knowledge base and honing their talents.

“My mother, being a maths teacher, was always a huge proponent of education, and she encouraged us from an early age to be leaders. Not only that, she set an example. Parents, set an example,” he earnestly asked.

Wickham applied himself academically and emerged the top performer in Jamaica in 2014 in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations, where he earned 12 subjects with grade ones.

CRUCIAL NECESSITY

Meanwhile, pastor of the Edgewater and Waterford Circuit of Baptist Churches, the Reverend Dr Dylan Toussaint, who gave the main address, noted that the theme ‘Keep Hope Alive’ has become increasingly significant, considering the challenges of COVID-19.

He asserted that hope is a practical reality, a crucial necessity, and a mutual responsibility.

In keeping hope alive, he charged Jamaicans to foster a spirit of hope.

“Our primary task as keepers of hope is to ensure that we at least possess it first, for there is no greater futility and frustration than trying to sustain what we have not yet obtained,” he said, adding that Jesus Christ was the ultimate and consummate source of real hope.

“We have to constantly resist the temptation to be so negative and dismissive that we fail to fully appreciate and celebrate those persons and things which are positive and constructive in our society,” Toussaint said.

Toussaint also called on employers to exemplify hope by doing everything humanly and legally possible to keep their employees in a job through these difficult times.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com