Mr Volunteer: Young man wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to prepare meals for schoolchildren
BARKING LODGE, St Thomas:
"Before God and all mankind, I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens. I promise ... to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly so that Jamaica may, under God ... play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race."
-- National Pledge
Passionately called Mr Volunteer by those closest to him, Ricardo Burke is the epitome of selflessness and service.
A native of Barking Lodge in St Thomas, Burke has always had a knack for giving, but always though that one had to be rich to help.
Burke told Rural Xpress that in 2014, he realised that though he had no money he had time, which he decided to put to good use.
"By donating time, I discovered that I had a lot to give, even more than others who actually had the resources. And by giving, I got a lot. I made many new friends, I found that I could put a smile on someone's face by helping them to find the help they needed. I learned a lot as a volunteer! I don't need a lot of money or material possessions to help someone in need. I have what money can't buy. I have time and time well spent," Burke said, adding that though he was going through the roughest period of his life at the time, he pledged to God that he would serve His people until he takes his last breath.
The now 31-year-old is the founder and managing director of a non-profit group called Yutes 4 Change Foundation, which operates in Gregory Park, St Catherine.
The three-year-old foundation provides free breakfast for more than 20 children on weekdays, provides free computer and Internet access for students doing homework, and also hosts a spelling competition at the Gregory Park Primary School.
"Growing up, I wasn't privileged and I know first-hand how it feels to be teased by your peers (for being poor), hence this is why I try to provide for others what I didn't have while growing up," Burke said.
The foundation is but one of his voluntary initiatives.The Good Samaritan explained that in order to better the country, someone has to make a sacrifice and that's the thought that keeps him going.
He, however, admitted that voluntarism, though rewarding, is hard work.
According to Burke: "It takes commitment, passion, and the drive to see your country become a better place. Always remember self is the greatest resource you have.
"If you are volunteering because you want praises and thanks, this is not for you, because 90 per cent of the people you assist won't say thank you. I help others because it's the right thing to do."
He described the many struggles he has faced in his personal life, including the many nights having had to go to bed hungry, or the occasional inability to fully provide for his daughter.
Burke, who was recently accepted to pursue an associate degree in social work at Excelsior Community College, took to facebook to seek help with his tuition. He explained, to the awe of his friends, that he gets up at 4:30 a.m. to prepare breakfast for the children in the community then goes to classes, after which he returns to help the children with their homework at the centre.
In the facebook post he said: "I'm here seeking your assistance so I can pursue the associate degree so I can further develop as an individual and, therefore, be better able to serve the underserved people of this nation."