Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
SPANISH TOWN, St Catherine:"IF MI did choose the right way from first, dem (police) couldn't see me and antagonise me," Marvin Campbell remarked.
The native of March Pen in Spanish Town, St Catherine completed his primary education, but dropped out of secondary school after his foster-parents died.
"Mi never grow up with mi parents. Mi mada give mi wey from mi likkle," he told The Gleaner.
Campbell, then a youth on the corner, often ended up on the wrong side of the law.
"When you sit on the street corner and play domino, you follow company and do the wrong things. I get lock down many times in jail, I have been accused of many things," he reflected.
Notwithstanding, the 36-year-old father of 15 children admitted that he was no saint. However, he said, upon reflection, in 2005, he decided to change his lifestyle.
"I grow up and get nuff children and realise that I have to organise and see mi self and live a different life," he explained.
His desire to walk the right path and contribute to the development of his stigmatised community was bolstered by the intervention of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund's (JSIF) Inner-City Basic Services Project, implemented in the community in 2006.
"We came in and engaged the community, implemented education and recreational activities. We also looked at alternative livelihood programmes and projects that we could essentially provide a different way for the young people and specifically economically where possible," explained Damion Young, JSIF project coordinator with special responsibility for the March Pen intervention.
Subsequently, in June 2012, Campbell became one of 30 persons who successfully completed a one-month training programme in animal husbandry and cash crops production, conducted by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority.
With input from Food For The Poor, some $600,000 was spent to provide seeds, livestock and tools for the participants in the projects.
At that time, Campbell began cultivating a variety of crops including callaloo, okra, corn, lettuce and pak choy, on lands leased by the March Pen Benevolent Society.
"I think he made a lot of mistakes in his youth, and I think now he has realised his mistakes and he is grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded to him. He is very interested in what he is doing," Pastor Eric Antonio of Pentecostal Miracle Deliverance Centre, Corletts Road, shared with The Gleaner.
In fact, it was Antonio who baptised Campbell more than five years ago.
"I've noticed his behaviour, his attitude, you don't hear his name calling any more. There may have been things in the past he got involved in, but now he has matured and really wants to do the right things," emphasised Antonio.
Young also spoke about Campbell's noticeable turnaround and his keen interest in agriculture.
"Marvin has been one of the persons who, when we came to the community, was regarded as a challenge to society, but now he is consistent in his work on the farm. We realise that he is taking it seriously, and he is committed to that activity," he said.
Campbell has also won the admiration of Cardia Duhaney, Jamaica Agricultural Society St Catherine parish manager, who registered the farmers and provided them with membership cards which qualify them for discounts from selected farm stores in St Catherine.
Moreover, many in March Pen and the adjoining Corletts Road hail Campbell as a role model.
"What Marvin doing really enlighten a lot of youths in the community because yuh done know the stigma wha deh pan the community, so what him a do now, nuff a de yute dem want do it to, and old and young buy the tings dem from him farm," Bernard Brown, a resident of Corletts Road pointed out.
Pastor Antonio believes that, if he gets further assistance and continues on his current trend, Campbell can inspire other misguided youths.
For Campbell, JSIF's vision which has brought not only him, but other challenged youngsters renewed hope, is laudable.
The unassuming farmer is pleading to young men living in communities similar to March Pen who might be running afoul of the law, to seize the opportunity now to make a change.