Sacha Walters-Gregory, Staff Reporter
Forty-two-year-old Carmen Alliman has recently completed 12 CXC subjects, in two sittings and has been accepted to The University College of the Caribbean (UCC) to read for her degree in hotel and tourism management. Alliman who lives in the inner-city community of Whitfield in Kingston never got the opportunity to tackle these tasks as a teenager growing up in Springfield in Above Rocks, St Catherine.
"I'm from a poor background. I was a very bright student ,but my parents couldn't afford to let me go forward," she said. With eight other children to support, Alliman's education was cut short when she was only in grade nine, at St Mary's College.
"Then, I got pregnant," she told Flair, which was another obstacle against completing her education. She became a mother to two sons, but her education was still important to her.
"I attended more than one class, but never had the opportunity to finish them because of financial difficulties," she said. While her children were her priority, some form of training was always a part of her reality.
She completed various skill courses which have allowed her to make a living. These include a certificate in dressmaking and drapery, food preparation - levels 1 and 2 at the Professional Development Institute and Girls' Town, food preparation level 3 and Chef Patisserie at Boys' Town, and levels 1 and 2 in cosmetology.
"After going to Girls' Town, in that same year, I went to the Institute of Higher Learning in the evenings to do practical nursing and basic first aid," she said. "I went to school in the mornings, did my housework and then leave again for another class in the evenings.
Active community member
"In 2007, I got active in Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF)," added Alliman, who is also an active member in her community through various channels. She established a community feeding programme called Samaritan Welfare Programme, providing a meal every Sunday to the needy in Payne Land division and Whitfield Town, out of her own pocket.
"I started with five persons, to cook for in the community. Then it kept on growing. Eighty-five and then it reached 120," she said. Her sons would ride their bicycles to deliver the meals. Today, the number stands at approximately 180.
"Now, I get a small assistance from our counsellor, Audrey Smith Facey," she explained.
Holding various positions in her community, including chairperson of the Payne Land division, secretary for the Julian Drive Community Youth Club, assistant treasurer for the Three Miles Development Area and Whitefield Town Zone - a community committee, Alliman has seen the benefit of outside social development organisations such as JSIF to her community.
These include the Youth Empowerment Programme, Lifeskills Training and Restorative Justice.
"After working with those programmes, it was my dream to go forward in life, even though at that time I was 30-something when I started," said Alliman. Dedicated to her community, she wanted to uplift, it but she wanted to fulfil her dreams. "I tried to get so many people back into school, so I said I'm doing so much for my community, it is time to do for myself."
A private tutor and studying on her own would allow her to complete her 12 subjects in two sittings. This resulted in seven grade ones and five grade twos.
The next step is for her to fulfil her dream of becoming an executive chef.
"Even though I've been accepted to UCC to do the degree in tourism and hospitality management, I really want to do level four at Runaway Bay," she confessed to Flair.
Her hope is that her commitment will motivate others in her community to improve themselves through education.
"We have persons in our community who have decided they are not going back to school; all 10 o'clock inna di night mi at dem doorstep a preach," she said. Cognisant that young persons need to be motivated and see the benefits of education, she usually gets a bus to transport some community members to her different graduation ceremonies to show them what they too can achieve.
"They'll say, 'Ms Carmen, set me up pon something; me want to go back to school'," she said.
But aside from wanting to see her community members grow their minds, she wants the community's infrastructure to improve.
"I want to see proper housing in our community, no shacks."