No legs, no problem - Disabled intern shines in corporate Jamaica
Equipped with a positive attitude and willingness to embrace hard work, 21-year old Jeneard Williamson is entering corporate Jamaica full speed ahead.
Interning with the Digicel Foundation, Williamson is learning a business approach to the special-needs industry, of which he is a part.
Born with multiple phocomelia syndrome, a rare birth defect that causes shortened - and sometimes absent - bones of the arms and other appendages, Williamson has long accepted that his disability does not limit his potential.
"Back in the days, I used to cry and wonder why I was born like this," said Williamson. "But growing up, you get used to it and you become more accepting; a so yuh born so there must be a reason for it."
Born in the community of Marken Stone, St Mary, Williamson is the last of four children to housewife Merle and father Eric, who is a vendor. Williamson and his sister Youlando, who is two years older, were both born with multiple phocomelia and, until moving to Kingston, had to share the use of a wheelchair.
"There is no life in St Mary for persons with special needs. We didn't have a wheelchair for a long time, so my brother, Orlando, would lift me up and carry me to school. When we're out, our parents would physically carry my sister and me. So we moved to Kingston for a better life," said Williamson.
Boarding at the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre, Williamson attended the Mona High School, from where he graduated with four subjects.
"Moving to Kingston was good for me and my sister. We both got wheelchairs and had better access. We learnt to become more independent and to do things on our own."
With the intention of furthering his education, Williamson started working and training at the Rehabilitation Centre before enlisting in the Recognising Abilities Through Training Employment and Development (RATED) programme. Through skills training and other interventions, the project seeks to improve the employability of persons with special needs.
It was under the RATED programme that both Williamson and his sister were recruited as POWER Interns at Digicel Jamaica. Starting in August of 2014 at Digicel, Williamson underwent an intensive two-month training in mathematics, English, computer literacy and communications.
GREAT LEARNING EXPERIENCE
After acing his assessment, the youngster selected the foundation as the department of choice for work experience.
"I wanted to learn about what the foundation was doing, especially in special needs," said Williamson. "Since being here, I have learnt to plan and execute projects; I've learnt administration and financial skills. Working with special needs, it feels nice to contribute, to show people that once you put your mind to it, you can do anything."
This is a philosophy Jeneard has applied to every aspect of his life, being actively involved in work and extracurricular activities. A self-proclaimed athletic star, Williamson takes part in cricket, basketball, table tennis, swimming, as well as track and field.
As a member of the Jamaica Paralympic team, he was the youngest basketballer to compete in the Canada games in 2010. He is also an avid road race competitor, winning several trophies in 5Ks across the island.
With all these successes in his young life, Williamson credits his family as being the driving force.
"I think I have the best parents in the world. They are my support system. Growing up, my father would take me to any football game I wanted to go. He would do anything to make me happy. My mommy would spoil me, giving me the best of everything," he said.
"Now I want to show everyone that life goes on despite your disability. You have to see the challenge and take it one step at a time. When it's your time to shine, it's your time to shine," he added.