New St Andrew custos ready to serve
A custos' role is all about service, so newly selected custos of St Andrew, Dr Patricia Dunwell, is a perfect fit.
"I have a mantra that in life, we are here for two purposes; to serve one another and to love one another," she said. "And I find that going through life with that mantra makes any type of service I'm called to do ... easier for me."
Dr Dunwell, a celebrated dermatologist, was sworn in on June 30 to be the 'first citizen' of the parish. Her life is a curriculum vitae of service, including: chair of a training centre for girls in Stony Hill, equipping young women with skills to survive on their own; past president of the Catholic Women's League - who tend to the marginalised and the aged; and as a board member of the Stella Maris Foundation. And yet, this proud daughter of Queenhythe, St Ann, never envisioned a role like this.
"I'm still getting used to the title," she laughed, noting she accepted after much prayer and encouragement. "I said to myself, 'this is just service again'. I love people. And I also believe in hard work, because I believe that's the only way one can achieve." Dr Dunwell revealed she prefers to work behind the scenes.
"But if I'm called up front, I am up to the challenge. And I know that every leading position that one takes, challenges are going to be there. But with challenges come possibilities for change." She's adamant her goal is to make St Andrew the most peaceful parish in Jamaica. Growing up, she remembers a caring community being at the centre of everything.
"That's where we need to go back to, in order to develop peace," she said. "That's why I want to focus on mediation and conflict resolution. I think we need to brainstorm and focus on this at the community level." Dr Dunwell has been quick out of the blocks, acquiring a map of St Andrew, determined to know every inch of the parish from "Tower Hill to Brandon Hill, from Stony Hill to Constitution Hill".
"If we start in the homes and on the street, focus on not only the marginalised but also persons of extreme age, the very old and the very young who can't help themselves, and we care for them, you would be surprised how justice and peace can come into play," she said. "I'm hoping that more and more, when we go to police stations, it is to get counselling and advice, rather than to just say lock this person up."
With her private practice well established, her schedule is flexible, essential as she envisions much travel, including filling in for the governor general. "I like to feel the pulse of persons, so I will be out in the communities," she said.
Dr Dunwell lauded the work of the more than 1,200 justices of the peace and said she looked forward to collaboration with them. She is adamant the role of a custos is still very relevant.
"A custos takes on a voluntary role to help in maintaining peace, justice; maintaining the law," she said. "Any voluntary service that goes toward that is an area that should never be neglected. This is necessary and is even more urgent today in Jamaica." She recalls a verse from her childhood, another mantra that drives her.
"Any good thing I can do, let me do it now. For I shall not pass this way but once," she recited.