Helping people is my calling, says Jamaica 55 anniversary awardee
Special projects coordinator in the Ministry of National Security Patricia Leonie Balls is among 65 institutions and persons who have been bestowed with the Prime Minister's Jamaica 55 Commemorative Medal of Appreciation for the roles they have played in the country's development.
"My philosophy is about doing the full gamut of social intervention - individuals and infrastructure. Helping people is my calling. I have a natural ability for that, which I have enhanced with a master's degree in national development and project planning, which I did in England," she shared.
Balls recounted that friends and some of her fellow recipients were delighted with her award, saying: "Full time. You've been working for so long. It's well earned."
This award is for her years of work in the field of public service, specifically, social intervention.
"When you do what you love, your work becomes your passion. Hence, it doesn't feel like work. I love to help people. That's my passion," Balls said.
Her journey began in 2001 as project manager in Grants Pen, where she oversaw the establishment of the Shortwood Road Branch Library and the upgrade of the football field and multipurpose courts at the New Day Primary and Junior High School, as well as carpentry-woodwork facility at the Stella Maris Foundation in the community. Five hundred persons were placed in jobs under this project and over 2,000 individuals participated in conflict resolution.
The projects were funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the private sector.
"I believe our greatest asset is our people. No one should be left behind.
They have so much potential, but they need help to bring it to fruition," Balls stated.
At this time, Montego Bay is her focus area. The special projects coordinator has facilitated capacity-building and problem-solving initiatives in six communities in the Second City, namely Flankers, Mount Salem, Salt Spring, Canterbury, Rose Heights, and Norwood.
The short-term priorities for these communities include trauma care for victims of violence, effective parenting, infrastructural development, reduction of gender-based violence, and improved conflict-resolution capacity of the residents.
SOCIAL INTERVENTION IS CRITICAL
Balls is currently working with community members to implement some of these initiatives. Additionally, she is assisting with the build phase in Mount Salem, which forms part of the social-development component of the ministry's Five-Pillar Strategy.
"Social intervention is critical in bringing about a more caring society. I interact with the residents on a daily basis, and get the buy-in from them," said Balls.
"A good day for me is when someone in the community has achieved something outstanding from one of the programmes."
When asked what her solution is for the youth, she advised: "Get them working. Get them to build their capacity and enhance their employability. I grew up seeing persons around me working."
The Prime Minister's Jamaica 55 Commemorative Medal of Appreciation for Service to Jamaica is the culmination of the nearly year-long celebrations, which officially began in August 2017.