Beyond beauty - Lead from the front
Natalia Oh, Contributor
"I like to lead from the front," says Hyacinth Warren. "I am a leader and it was D. Simon Clarke, principal at Green Island Secondary, who, unbeknownst to him, brought out and encouraged my leadership skills when I was a little girl."
Warren is the proud holder of the 2013 Prime Minister's Award for Community Service, chairman of the Hanover Cultural Development Committee, and the Miss Festival Queen Committee for Hanover. She is also the distinguished president of the Kiwanis Club of the Providence of Montego Bay. One wonders what leads someone to become so active and engaged in community work. She is the true definition of poise and sophistication and she has a gleam in her eyes that betrays her love for living life on the edge. Warren enjoys deep-sea diving and tending her garden and fish pond. And she loves the thrill of raising pit bulls as pets and playing competitive sports such as basketball, tennis and squash.
Warren was born in Longwood district, the sixth of seven children for Zedimiah and Zena Shakes. She was, however, raised in Cousins Cove, Hanover. Warren's father passed away when she was 12 years old, leaving the task of raising seven children solely in the hands of her mother, who was widely known as Mama Shakes.
Mama Shakes worked as a cook during the days for the property managers of a hotel. At nights, she would use her sewing skills to generate additional income by making uniforms and other clothing for neighbourhood families.
"Mama Shakes is one of the kindest persons I know. If some of the women could not afford to pay for the clothes, she would discretely not charge them. And whenever the neighbourhood children visited our house and were hungry, Mama Shakes would feed them even from our modest provisions," Warren recalls.
The neighbourhood women who wanted to learn would be taught to sew so that they, too, could provide for their own families. So as a widowed mother, Mama Shakes was reinvesting in her community and this taught Warren that, no matter how little you have in life, there is always some way you can help others. It's no surprise, then, that philanthropy is now a big part of Warren's life.
After completing high school at Green Island Secondary, Warren moved to Kingston and this led to an academic path in business administration, at the Fitz-Henley Secretarial Institute. There, she told Outlook, she learned structure, developed effective time-management skills and mastered the art of strategic planning. These skills would later help her in her role as general manager of the property Rhodes Hall Plantation Resort, which she founded with her husband, Rickman.
The beach-front property sits on 550 acres of land and is regarded as a nature lover's paradise as it boasts an unspoiled forest which features a variety of indigenous plant life. Warren said the property attracts local and international writers for its tranquillity. It has also hosted yoga retreats and weddings.
Her marriage produced two sons - Rickman Jr and Robert, and Warren disclosed that she became active in their school's parent-teacher association (PTA) (Rusea's High) because it makes a huge difference in the lives of her sons. "There really aren't any bad schools, but parents need to monitor their children at school and they need to get involved with what is going on at schools. I served as PTA president for the entire time my boys were at school, and it allowed my sons to do better at school because my constant presence forced them to have accountability. I urge parents to communicate with the teachers at your children's schools, find out how you can assist, because in the long run, your child is going to benefit." When asked if she had any pointers for parents sending their children back to school in September, she said:
Check the school's bulletin boards to see what are the planned events for the term and support them.
Communicate with the teachers - don't just rely on the letters that schools send out as the only form of communication. Ask the teacher how you can help.
Talk to your children about what is going on in their classrooms and their friendships.
Talk to other parents and other children and see what their concerns are.
Get to know your children's friends and ensure that there is open dialogue with your own children.
Encourage your children to live balanced lives with extra-curricular activities, sports and church. This helps to form a solid foundation so when children get older and are faced with peer pressure they won't be easily swayed.
Warren said that when her sons were both getting ready to sit their Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams, she was the secretary for their study groups and would help them stay on task with assignments and deadlines. Her early studies at business school helped her to effectively manage these groups. This guidance and hands-on approach helped her sons achieve impressive grades and has helped with their other academic ventures.
Hyacinth Warren, wife, mother, daughter, sister and the strong leader, closes this interview by saying: "In all of what I do - community service and everything else - my family will always come first. I am willing to give up everything for them."
1. How do you spend your weekends?
I go to church on Saturdays and after I visit with Mama Shakes for a few hours. I return home for evening prayer with my family. On Sundays, when there are no meetings, my family goes for breakfast at The Pelican restaurant in Montego Bay.
2. Where is your favourite vacation spot in Ja?
Apart from Rhodes Hall Plantation, as there is no other place like it since I'm always there, it feels like work all the time and not really a vacation. I love to visit Strawberry Hill Hotel and I especially love their Sunday brunch.
3. Where is your dream international vacation spot and why?
Shockingly, I have never been to Europe with all my travels overseas, maybe it's the long flight. However, some day I wish to visit Paris, France, for all the romance that it embodies.
4. Who is your favourite author?
Though I love all genres of writing, I am eager to see what E.L. White comes out with next, because I really enjoyed the Fifty Shades of Grey series.
5. What is the best advice you have ever received?
Before my father's death, he said something to me which he was famous for saying, and I have never forgotten it: "I can't is a sluggard and you must try and try again, boy, until you succeed at last."
6. What is the charity that means the most to you?
Though I support many charities, the one that means the most to me is Kiwanis International, which is an international organisation which gives back to communities, families and projects. Before the Kiwanis Club, I found I was giving back and didn't know where I was giving and, unfortunately, I was scammed by someone I was helping. With the Kiwanis Club, I can account for my contribution and where it is being directed, as the organisation is properly administered.
They can be contacted via the web at www.kiwanis.org.
Stylist, make-up artist, photography: Natalia Oh
Clothing: All clothing belongs to Hyacinth Warren, except yellow bag photographed with blue dress. Bag provided by Allure Fashions, #18 Leaders Plaza, Mandeville. Tel: (876)-895-8756