Sandria Watkis Madden - putting her passion to work everyday
For Sandria Watkis Madden, working with at-risk youth and helping them to turn their lives around is her passion.
In fact, it is this passion that has seen her making the full-time commitment to work with them.
Growing up in a very poor family in deep rural Clarendon (Bryans Piece), she said it paved the way for the path she is now on.
"I understand hunger; I understand needs; I understand not fitting in. We grew up in a two-apartment house. Each room was a 10x10 and it accommodated my parents, five of us as siblings, one adopted sister and a cousin. When I look back now, I try to figure out how all of us hold in that tiny little house," she said, the wonder still coming through in her voice.
It is that growing up that has taught her never to take anything for granted and to be always thankful, while helping all who she can along the way.
To date, she has sheltered eight at-risk youth, giving them the opportunity to live with her.
At Present, one is still living with her while the others "come and go" when the need arises.
"They stay until they find their footing or until a family member who is capable of taking care of them is found. Apart from those who have lived with me, there are many others who were helped in one way or another," she said.
However, there is one youngster who has impacted her life and she opened up to Family & Religion about the young man she has taken under wings - Michael*, and how he came to be living with her.
SURVIVE ON HIS OWN
She met him in September 2015 after one of her neighbours highlighted his plight to her.
"He started telling me of a young man who was really struggling to survive. I told him to tell the young man to come and check me.
"That evening, a student of Lennon High came and introduced himself as the young man who needed help," she shared.
Michael lost his father when he was six and his mother abandoned him when he was seven years old. He used to live with his grandmother, but after a while other family members ejected him from the premises and he was forced to survive on his own in an unoccupied building.
Although she assisted him by giving him what she could to help him survive, she could not take him in at the time.
After social workers intervened and was going to put him in a home, it broke her heart when he pleaded with her to help him.
"I met with the social worker and the guidance counsellor of Lennon, who were there because they heard that Michael was living on his own. I told them right there and then that he would be living with me as of today. And he has been ever since," she shared.
It is a decision she has not regretted, knowing she made a difference in a life that needed it the most. She is even more pleased as he has since given his life to the Lord and is now a young deacon at church.
Watkis Madden said she is sharing the story because she strongly believes that if more persons give of themselves and try to make a difference in a troubled teen's life, then transformation can truly begin.
"It takes only one who believes, one who cares, one who is hopeful to make a difference in the world," she said.
Watkis Madden is currently in the process of forming her foundation - one which will see her doing even more outreach and mentoring of troubled youth.
"That's my passion, it's what I do, and I would have it no other way," are the committed words coming from her.
* Name changed