Alpha changed my life: Kempton Lewis finds security after life on the streets
With eyes filled with anguish, a young Kempton Lewis went into survival mode on the streets, hunting down basic necessities; food to eat. It was one misfortune after the other, until he was picked up by the police. That’s when things took a turn. Today, the director of security at a multi-million dollar condominium in South Beach, Florida in the United States shares just how Alpha Institute changed his life for the better.
It was on Sunday, June 25 1995 that nine year old Lewis was sent to Alpha through the juvenile court system. “Honestly, the truth is, this was my very first time seeing a bed. Or knowing what it is like to have a proper shower, eat a proper cooked meal and eat out of a plate with a fork,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.
For context, his mother had a total of nine children in total. And with no father in the picture and no funds available to attend school, she went to the market for work and he went about the day carrying out odd errands for others.
While at Alpha, he sought artistic refuge in the saxophone and trumpet, learning the instruments and playing professionally. “I played all over in bands, even took flights for shows. Going to Alpha was the turning point of my life. I learned music and was able to receive a good education. I owe it all to the sisters of mercy and Alpha Boys school for molding me into the strong man I am now,” he said.
He made special mention of Sister Maria Goretti, for her unconditional love and commitment, “She is from New Zealand but she spent 40 years in Jamaica taking care of boys at Alpha Boys Home. She raised thousands of us in her arms. A lot of us didn’t have mothers or mentors. Before going there, we experienced abuse and neglect. Many of us were on the street with drugs, and Alpha took us in. This angel on earth is responsible for 100, if not 1000s of men in today’s world.”
He is also grateful to the late Sister Ignatius, former band master Mr Winston Sparrow Martin, child care staff member Mr Ezra Plunket, teachers like Mrs Clue, Mrs Buyers and trade staff members like Mr Brown from the Printery Department. “They are all hardworking, kind, loving and never give up on so many of us. They have instilled many gems, teaching me valuable lessons that I apply to my own life” he explained.
After leaving Alpha, Lewis found it difficult to join a band so he formed his very own: the Omega Element Band. Pursuing music full time, he played at weddings, funerals, dinners, cocktail functions and graduations. After that venture, he went on to become a civil servant, working at the Ministry of Transport and Works. “In 2010, we played at a funeral for free and I was asked if I wanted to do a regular nine to five,” he said, accepting the offer.
It was there that Audrey Sewell, become like a mother to him. “I met her at a time when my life was dark. I was in a deep deep depression. Everyone had given up on me and I was on the edge of giving up on myself. I am glad she came into my life. It was the very first time I felt what it was like to hear someone say, ‘Son, I love you’, ‘Don’t worry, you will be okay’, and ‘Just stay focused and follow my guide’.”
With her encouragement and guidance, Lewis was able to attain Caribbean Examination Council subjects in grade ones and twos. “She is my tower of strength. Without her, I would be dead, in jail or coked out, in all honesty. She saved me,” he added.
In the wake of getting back on his feet, he migrated to the United States, where he is not only a director of security for a condominium, he also offers personal bodyguard services for high-end clients. He has been blessed with beautiful children, twin boys Josiah and Joshua, aged 10 and an 18-year-old daughter, Kiera.
There was no biological father around, so he took examples from the father-figures at Alpha who showed him the ropes of what a good father should look like, “Being a father made me realise that I can’t give up. On days when I feel like I can’t make it, just thinking about my children gives me the strength to get up and go fight.”
He recently tied the knot with his wife, Andrene, and shared that married life is a lot of hard work, but it has been most rewarding facing each day together.
And speaking of family, he received an update in 2010, when he went on a programme that aired on Radio Jamaica 94 FM called Sunday Contact. He learned his mother was shot and killed in the market where she sold goods. He was also able to locate his father.
“My dad is still alive and around. My brothers and sisters are all living in parts of St James and I communicate with them,” he added.
His advice to those who feel like giving up on life is to have faith and keep going, “Life is a gift from God; the way you live it is a gift back to God. Always have faith, trust in God and never ever doubt yourself.”