God is amazing! - Iris Bailey recounts how her tragedy turned into triumph
Her small stature does not ably fit the weight she has carried for years. But her mindset is one of positivity, perseverance and unending gratitude to the One whom, she said, would never give her more than she can bear.
At 22 years old, Iris Bailey knows what it feels like to lose both parents, have her dreams put on the back burner, be toughened by her environment daily, yet still have hope enough to know she could one day achieve her dreams.
"I went to Vauxhall High School, graduated and went to Denham Town High for lower- and upper-sixth forms. My parents died while I was in sixth form, and I felt hopeless. I immediately felt lonely," she began.
The emotional pain she felt after losing her parents intensified and her environment, in no way offered her comfort.
"I have been inside my house and seen people who were killed just lying outside, blood everywhere, flesh matter all over. I have seen it up close several times. It was almost like the norm, but you still know that those things weren't right."
Bailey, who describes herself as a strong believer in God, says that she knew that God would come through for her, but she didn't know when and how.
Knowing she could not allow her situation to get the best of her, Bailey sought help to fulfil her dreams of becoming someone greater in life.
"At the time, I wanted to attend The Mico University College and I thought the best way to get funds was to get my story out there. My story came out in The WEEKEND STAR, and it was there that things changed for me."
She continued, "Nadeen Campbell from Northern Caribbean University (NCU) contacted me after they read my story, and shortly after, I was offered a full scholarship to study secondary teacher education."
Bailey says that she has always wanted to leave her community because it wasn't the place she wanted to live in as a young woman. But she had nowhere to go until now.
"God is so amazing! Life here on campus has been really good! It's a different experience from being back home, and I am really enjoying myself. I am glad I'm here on the main campus, and I'm not experiencing violence and seeing any dead bodies. Everything that I need is right here."
Bailey expressed how grateful she is for her two brothers and a sister, who have continued to give her support and lift her up in prayer.
"I want to make them proud. I want to be a good teacher and a motivational speaker for Christ. I see myself, a few years from now, going back to my community, telling people about God, helping children further their education and helping to make a change."
She added: "For persons out there who are going through struggles and feel like they can't manage, I just want to say that there is a God who never fails, and if you put your trust in Him, He will direct your life."
Bailey is part of an initiative of NCU's, recently launched called RESCUE (Restoring Every Student's Confidence Using Education), which, according to coordinator Michael Harvey, is geared at the holistic development of young people across the island, their greater involvement in community, reduction in crime and violence, among other aims.
He said that the pilot project would be completed in Manchester but that there was a target for 100 centres to be opened across the island.
The team is currently seeking donations for the initiative, which is expected to cost approximately $114 million, with $39 million of that total needed for the pilot project.