Motivational speaker urges young people go set positive goals
Daviot Kelly, Sunday Gleaner Writer
He was christened Craig Dixon but those who have heard his motivating words, know him as Juleus Ghunta.
Dixon, 24, was born in Lucea, Hanover, and faced a rough childhood before he transformed into the motivational speaker everybody calls Ghunta.
Growing up, he remembers his mother constantly changing addresses because she couldn't pay her rent. At 14, his grandmother kicked him out after a disagreement with an aunt.
"I had one shirt, one pants and one pair of shoes. And I had some small holes in them," he said.
Heartbroken, Ghunta asked complete strangers for shelter. He was eventually offered a shack in Pell River in the parish, a piece of sponge was his new bed.
Living on his own, Ghunta did odd jobs to feed himself while going to Rusea's High School.
Today, he is a transformational speaker, social activist and 'Dreamrighter', telling young people they have the right to dream big and to achieve despite their circumstances.
He uses a philosophy he has dubbed DREAMRIGHT.
According to Ghunta every letter in the acronym is important.
Right To Dream
Master Your Craft
Goodwill To Others
Tenacity (Try And Try).
He said he created this concept at age 12 and has lived by it.
"I looked at the life my mother was living and I said I can achieve something else out of this life. Each and every human being ... every one of us has a right to be here, a right to dream, a right to bloom."
Regarding the name change, Ghunta explained he burned his stomach as a child while reaching for tea. He would rub the stomach saying 'Bunta' meaning burn.
At Rusea's, due to his track abilities, they started calling him 'Gunta'.
"At one point I was called 'Hunta' as well, that's why it's 'Gh' now," he said.
'Juleus' was a name he got from an uncle and recently, he found out his last name was actually Lambert. 'Craig Dixon' means nothing to him.
"The fact is, Juleus Ghunta, those names motivate me. When I hear them, I feel like I can do anything." He has taken his 'dreamright' message mostly around the region through the Caribbean Internship Programme.
However, he spoke in Rwanda in 2010 when he was among young leaders in the Commonwealth Youth Leadership Training Programme.
Ghunta recently told his tale of perseverance to participants at the Governor General's I Believe Youth Consultative County Conference for Surrey.
A transfixed group heard of the days when, in that Pell River shack, he used pans to capture the water which leaked through the roof.
"I would wake up at 4 a.m. (to get to school). I ate what I had. Sometimes it was mangoes, sometimes it was pear and salt. Sometimes it was nothing," he recalled.
He would walk through Lucea on his heels because his shoes had holes and he didn't want to ruin his socks. Early on in school, he was considered "the dumb kid in class".
"I said to myself that I have to create a change inside of me. I am not a slave. I challenged the traditions that said to me I was going to leave high school to rake somebody's yard."
a model student
He became a model student (Student of the Year 2005, successful at CAPE) and through loans, achieved tertiary education.
He displayed pictures of some of his heroes, Dr Louis Bennett-Coverley, Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi, as he voiced his story.
"These men and woman believed in the right to dream," he told the gathering, assuring them they all had something to contribute.
Ghunta spreads his dreamright message often without charge despite still facing his own obstacles.
He's been accepted to four universities (three in the United Kingdom, the other in Costa Rica) to do peace and reconciliation studies. But financial challenges hinder his matriculation.
"I have tried, like many young Jamaicans to find a conventional job. But I've just used that as an impetus to do what I'm really passionate about."
Ever the optimist, he continues applying for scholarships to improve himself but remains focused on motivating young people.
"I have to," Ghunta stressed as he argued that he has an affinity for positive language which can really change individuals and a nation.
"Negative language really suppresses and keeps people down. So I have a great interest in language, particularly how I can use it to teach people how to think and to dream. To dream right."