Woman Power: Diana Prijohn-McLaughlin
They say that a strong woman is able to build a solid foundation with the bricks thrown at her, and this is undeniably true as several have stood the test of time and continue to rise above adverse circumstances.
Much like the female movers and shakers of society, executive agent with Sagicor Life Dianna Prijohn-McLaughlin grew up learning to be self-reliant and industrious.
"I am number one of six children. I think I was born independent. From very early, I had to take care of my siblings and cousins. My grandma was my saving grace. I sort of learnt many things about life on my own. I think that's why even when I need to rely on others now, it's not so easy to do. I had some hard life lessons very early, but I am grateful to God for them as they made me who I am today."
She continued, "I started working the summer before I entered third form. I recall when I was faced with the uncertainty of going back to school for the upcoming school year, I was told by a lady in the community to 'go out a Missa Peart (retired member of parliament (MP) for South Manchester ), mek him help you'. So one Friday, I went with a few persons to the office of the retired MP and registered my name. I guess because I was a child with no accompanying adult, I was left 'till the very last for him to see. Eventually, he allowed me to secure a job with SDC (Social Development Commission) every summer until I completed high school."
Prijohn-McLaughlin admits that had it not been for teachers who went beyond the call of duty, the journey to success would have been more difficult.
"When I left high school, my dream was to attend law school, but I couldn't afford it and didn't know what to do. A teacher at Bethabara All Age at the time spoke to me and encouraged me to apply to teachers' college and seek student's loan. She even gave me the money for the application form. I will never forget Mrs Beatrice Ford."
Once accepted into teachers' college, Prijohn-McLaughlin's workload increased as she also had the major responsibility of caring for her younger siblings. But she held her own.
"I would go home for the weekend - as I lived on campus - to wash and cornrow my sisters' hair, wash and iron their uniforms for the week, cook, and return to college by Sunday evening. Nevertheless, I was very involved in college life - 4H club, badminton and debate club."
While teaching special reading classes at the Villa Road Primary and on the evening shift at the Bellefield High School, she soon got the opportunity to enter the field of insurance, where she has spent the last 14 years.
"I was referred to my current supervisor more than 14 years ago by Val Holness of the Jamaica Teachers' Association Cooperative. He felt that my outgoing, driven personality and training made me an ideal match for the insurance business. Truth be told, I knew very little of the business then, but absolutely love what I do. I was born to help people. My clients rely on me for so much, way more than insurance in many instances. Having a degree (bachelor of science with honours ) in guidance and counselling certainly helps, she said.
Many wonder how she is able to maintain her sanity with the intense workload plus the added responsibilities of being a mother and wife, but she tells us just how.
"I am up by five. I have my personal devotion, do breakfast, get my son up. Many times, I do a few chores while he eats (a load of clothes in the machine or so), then I take him to school. I prefer to take him to school. There's just something about those conversations we have about school and life that's best in the car that time of morning. I then return and get ready for work. I work best if I do my mornings-on-the-road rounds, then I am in office or out of parish for appointments, or even around town.
"I normally pick my son up at four and take him to Tae Kwon Do, and I use this hour to do some chores around town, then pick him up and often head back to the office, where he does his homework and have something to eat, while I do paper work. I leave there 7: 30 to 8:00 p.m., I get home, make something for us to eat, then check the books with my son or he has to tell me about his day. He goes off to bed around 9 to 9:30 p.m.
"I may check policies, return information to clients, and I am in bed at about midnight. Many of my days are spent working out of parish. I have to thank my son's special aunties who take care of him," she added.
Certainly Prijohn-McLaughlin knows that there can be no work without play, so that is made a priority.
"I love my job, but I can be replaced there, not at home. I use my diary, and I am a planner, so, at the beginning of the year, we work out vacation time and activities. I always believe when there's no job or other people, there's family, so I make time. We go out a lot as a family, but because of my husband's job as an administrative manager, sometimes it's me and my son, and we go to a hotel for the weekend or so. We enjoy going to all-inclusive resorts, where I don't have to do anything."
Sitting on several boards at church, work and other institutions, Prijohn-McLaughlin continues to do all she can to give back to society and improve herself.