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Garold Hamilton: Overcoming adversity, achieving success

Published:Sunday | December 9, 2018 | 12:00 AMNatalia Oh

Noted mechanical-engineer-turned-author Garold Hamilton's life is an inspirational story of resilience, perseverance, and breaking down countless barriers to achieve immense success.

Hailing from the small and relatively obscure community of Shaolin, Westmoreland, Hamilton has successfully overcome a life full of challenges to become an internationally acclaimed civil engineer and the senior vice-president and Healthcare Practice Lead at WSP USA, one of America's largest engineering and infrastructure firms.

His recently published book, Ghetto Youth's Bible: Wise Words for 'Ghetto Youth' on the Rise, chronicles Hamilton's incredible story and also provides guidance and wisdom for those also looking to elevate themselves above their current reality.


Determination to succeed


Hamilton's rise all began with a strong and determined mother, who served as his primary source of inspiration. After his father met in a serious motorcycle crash, his mother assumed the role of both parents, and as Jamaicans say, 'hustled' to make ends meet.

"My mom was and is very industrious and she made business out of many things. She had a shop, she was a butcher, she sold wholesale bag juice, she baked everything and sold it, and she was also a live-in helper. In watching her, I learnt to adopt an 'I will not quit attitude', to find a different way, and how to keep chipping away until you find success," he notes.

His mother would remain a source of emotional and financial support, as Hamilton embarked on an academic career fraught with unexpected difficulties.

After graduating from The Mannings School, Hamilton went on to study at the University of West Indies, Mona, with the intention of transferring to the St Augustine campus the following year. However, shortly before he was to begin his second year of University in Trinidad Tobago, a horrible motorcycle accident, much like the one that claimed his father's life, left him in the hospital and derailed his smooth transition into a new school. Three months and 12 surgeries later, Hamilton made the pivotal decision to continue his tertiary education, against the advice of doctors and the university's academic staff, who recommended taking the year off.

"I made up my mind and decided to go to Trinidad a month and a half late for the semester with a still ruptured knee. I was determined to succeed even though I had to hobble around on crutches for months. That experience taught me resilience and really helped to build my character, and the rest is history," he recalls.

It is this same resilience that has allowed him to continue playing football and other sports, even after losing a kneecap due to the accident.


A born leader


Hamilton attributes most of his success to determination and hard work, but a peek into his childhood, would suggest that he was in fact born with an innate gift for leadership. One of his fondest memories from his youth in Shaolin, was when at 10 years old, he and a cousin teamed up to host a community concert called 'Ghetto Splash'.

He notes fondly, "the performers were all people from my Shaolin community, we charged $20 to get in and the whole community attended. We the promoters, were all dressed up and wore large chains and rings made from cardboard and metallic foil paper."

The concert was a resounding success and enjoyed the full support of the entire community. Most importantly, however, the experience of hosting Ghetto Splash, gave rise to Hamilton's unyielding desire to succeed in life.


One chance to succeed


Hamilton completed his studies at St Augustine and was ready to return home and begin his career as an engineer, when a professor who had recognised his great potential recommended that he take his talents to the UK where they could be truly nurtured and appreciated. However, when he arrived in London, fate was not so kind.

"I worked odd jobs for a year and half in London before one person decided to give me a chance to prove my worth," Hamilton recalls. "When I arrived in London, I sent out 100 applications and got 98 outright rejections. One of the two who interviewed me, told me point blank that without a degree from a school in the UK, I would not find work as an engineer."

Most people would have given up hope, but Hamilton's resolve never waned and eventually, he was given an opportunity that would change his life forever.

"It was Barry Shambrook, the owner of Tuckers Consultancy in London, who gave me my first real job, and I think he saved my engineering career. I was in the middle of trying to forge another path, because I was unsuccessful in securing an engineering job and Barry took a chance with me. I had a degree in civil engineering and Barry hired me to be a mechanical engineer. I quickly grasped his reasoning and quickly, I was able to convert myself to one of the best mechanical designers at Tuckers Consultancy."


Finding the strength within


The rise to great success was by no means easy for Hamilton, even after he had established himself in the UK engineering industry. After practising in the UK for over nine years, he received a lucrative offer to move to the US, where he faced new challenges adapting to corporate America.

Hamilton, however, credits the strong foundation gained growing up in Jamaica as part of his secret to success.

"Being a product of the Jamaican ghetto gave me all the tools that I needed to become successful in corporate America," Hamilton insists. "Despite what many believe, growing up and being educated in Jamaica gives you the necessary building blocks to succeed in a First-World country. It taught me when the going gets tough, you need to clench those fists and grind your way through the pain."


An Inspiration to ghetto youths everywhere


Ghetto Youth's Bible, is just the latest act of kindness from a man who has never forgotten his roots and has also given back through his generous philanthropy. In his book, he details his life story and shares how he was able to overcome the challenges he faced with the intention of inspiring underprivileged youth that they, too, can make a difference. He also seeks to debunk many of the misconceptions society holds about young people from low income areas.

"I think the biggest misconception people have about ghetto youths is that they are not adaptable. Being from the ghetto taught me to adapt to my environment in order to survive. That adaptability is one of my key characteristics that allows me to shine in the corporate world."

Hamilton understands the difficulties faced by young people from poor backgrounds more than most, but despite this, he is a strong believer that ghetto youth should view their harsh upbringing as an advantage rather than a roadblock.

Ghetto Youths Bible, is truly an inspirational piece of literature that seeks to reset the mindset of poor youth who are often deterred by negative stereotypes or opinions that society may have of them. Instead of being ashamed of their backgrounds, Hamilton urges them to tap into the resilience and independence, that being from the ghetto naturally instills in them. Instead of shying away from opportunities, he encourages them to become bold and fearless leaders who use their previous failures as fuel for future success.

The book's overarching message is made all the more powerful, as it is one that Hamilton has lived his entire life by: 'Don't let your current situation dictate where you are going, because it's not about where you start, it's not even about the in between, it is about how you finish'.


Home is where the heart is


Despite the many places Hamilton has lived or travelled, Jamaica is his only true home and his favourite place to be. So much so, that the self-professed lover of country music, places the white sands and sparkling waters of Negril at the very top of his list of favourite getaway spots.

Hamilton has never forgotten where he came from and throughout the years, he has done everything possible to give back to his community.

Through his Dream to Reality Foundation, a non-profit organisation operating in Westmorland and its environs, that teaches self-sufficiency through sports, Hamilton has touched the lives of many within and beyond his former neighbourhood. He has given back in more ways than one can imagine and dreams of eventually returning home for good.

"It doesn't matter how long I have lived overseas, I always see Jamaica as my home, where I want to move back to. I have always invested in my community and stayed connected with the people of Westmoreland and Jamaica.

In fact, Hamilton's ideal future is one in which he is even more involved in improving the lives of everyday Jamaicans.

"My goal is to move back home and enter representational politics, so that I can continue to serve the people of community, my parish, and my country."


A life of purpose


Hamilton's life has never been easy, but he has always made sure it was meaningful. He has never let the challenges he faced deter him, and that is a lesson we can all learn from, no matter what our background may be.