Mon | Jul 16, 2018

Tenuka Doyley - From sleeping at Portmore Mall to pursuing higher education

Published:Thursday | March 23, 2017 | 12:00 AMCecelia Campbell Livingston
Tenuka Doyley, from the streets to university.
Tenuka Doyley speaks of her struggles growing up.

PORTMORE, St Catherine:

Tenuka Doyley is now pursuing her undergraduate degree in Communication Arts and Technology at the University of Technology and while she can breathe a sigh of relief in finally pursuing her dreams - she cannot help but look back at the rocky road she had to take to get there.

Part of that journey saw her sleeping in a classroom in Portmore and getting out in time before anyone would know, not having enough to eat, wearing 'hand me downs' and trying to keep her head above the waters.

Born to parents Maxima Josephs and Anthony Doyley, it soon became just her and her mother after her father migrated to England shortly after she was born.

"The one person I saw in my life was my mother - and she is the very essence of who I am today. I love her so much," said Doyley.

Tenuka - whose name means 'blessed from the womb' said she has lived up to that name in every sense of the word.

"My life has been more than a miracle," said Doyley, who was born in Trench Town. She said growing up, she was taught to speak 'standard English', describing her mother as decent woman with high standards.

"She would always say to me, 'you can born and grow in Trench Town, but you don't have to be of Trench Town'. I didn't understand what that meant until I got older and I am very grateful for her counsel," she said.




Doyley's mother has been a domestic helper for all her working life. They eventually moved out of Trench Town to live in Portmore as she sought employment with a family there. But when that live in work ended, they had nowhere to go.

Her mother 'roughed it' and sent her to live with one of her friends in Kingston, soon she found herself living with one friend after another as convenience was not constant.

Finally, her mother decided that through thick and thin they should stick together.

"Unfortunately, my mother didn't have it figured out and I didn't want to be without her, so we started sleeping in a classroom at a primary school in Portmore on a white door covered with a green frilly sheet and my pillow was three plastic bags with clothes. We could only enter the school after the principal had left and that would be at about 6 p.m. and we would have to be out of the school in the mornings by about 6 a.m.," Doyley recalled.

Amazingly, her mother used to have her clothes and uniform washed and dried, then she would iron it, ensuring her daughter was 'clean as a whistle' each school day.

"You couldn't know my situation unless I said something to you," she said sharing that everyone in Portmore knew her and her mother as they would go to various sessions in the nights and pick up empty bottles to get them sold to purchase food.

"Just thinking about it humbles me because some of the hunger I have felt, I never knew I could live it out. Life was so hard, I used to beg, beg as though I was blind," she said.

After a while, Doyley said she started feeling angry and resentful about the situation they were in.

"I was embarrassed because I lived nowhere and when I saw my friends wearing nice clothes, I wondered why I couldn't be wearing those clothes. When my friends were buying lunch, I couldn't. It was difficult. So after a while, I developed some amount of behavioural issues," she said, adding that she became disobedient and event even going as far as to deny her mother by telling people she was her helper.

Years later, she admits to not understanding what was happening, as she didn't realise just how much her mother was struggling to make her happy, even during the times when they had to sleep at Portmore Mall, her mother would sit up allowing her to sleep in her lap.

"Those days were hard, so hard, but we got through it. God took us through it," she said.

Things started looking up when he mother got a house in Independent City to live in - but misfortune reared its ugly head again as the house was burnt out and her mother suffering first degree burns in the incident, spending two years in the hospital.

It was gloomy outlook for Doyley as the doctors said her mother would never walk again.

"But of course, God had a different plan. She can more than walk, she's well. While she was in the hospital, I was here, there and everywhere. And my life kind of spiralled downhill. Though when I was with my mother it wasn't the best experience, I missed her and her values. I missed what she represented," she said.

Now, allowing herself the luxury to look back, Doyley still finds it hard to believe how they've been able to get through it all as she said there have been moments where she has been so broken, but God put her back together again.