Mon | Jul 26, 2021

Junior councillors determined to shine

Published:Wednesday | March 24, 2021 | 12:07 AM
Founder of the Birthday Giveback Project, Abigail Wehby (left), and project contributor, Gabrielle Walsh (right), hand over a donation of pillows to the Wortley Home for Girls in St Andrew on February 26.
Founder of the Birthday Giveback Project, Abigail Wehby (left), and project contributor, Gabrielle Walsh (right), hand over a donation of pillows to the Wortley Home for Girls in St Andrew on February 26.

Despite the challenges and restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to online learning, Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) junior councillors, Reajean Bennett and Abigail Wehby, are determined to shine in spite of the current conditions.

Reajean, the junior councillor for the Springfield division, recently won the title of ‘Miss Advocator’ at the St Hugh’s High School for the views she put forward on social media on the importance of speaking out.

“I entered because I have a passion for public speaking … a passion for using my voice to make a difference and to inspire the lives of others. I will continue to advocate about any issue I am passionate about, and I will just continue to run with the mantra to use my voice and speak about anything I think is topical or I have a view on or I oppose,” Reajean told JIS News.

Reajean’s advice to her peers is to not question their gifts but to simply use them.

“For persons who are interested to walk in the line of leadership, to share their voice and be more outspoken – just do it. Many times, we hold ourselves back because we question our gifts or talents and question our abilities. Just do it. Just take that step and see where it leads you. If you don’t take that step, who will take it for you?” she asserted.

‘Don’t give up’

Reajean is the secretary of the school’s Key Club, chaplain for the Mathematics Club, a member of the Girl Guides Association, and public relations officer for the KSAMC’s Junior Council.

She does this while doing her Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) studies, and helping her peers virtually where possible.

“For the students experiencing the life of online school, don’t give up, stay determined. Stay persistent now more than ever. You are in the position for independent learning, so try your best to just keep up to par and remember to unplug at times. Put your best foot forward in each and everything you do,” Reajean encouraged.

Similarly, her fellow junior councillor, Abigail Wehby, wears several hats, balancing extracurricular and academic life, while impacting the lives of others around her.

The 17-year-old KSAMC junior councillor for the Red Hills division is also the founder of the Birthday Giveback Project, an initiative she started in 2020 after selflessly dedicating her birthday towards improving the life of a teen in need.

“I looked for a very long time, and then I found something that really resonated with me, a 16-year-old girl in St Elizabeth who is in need of tumour removal surgery. So, I asked my family and friends for cash or cheques instead of birthday presents, and they all donated,” she added.

Through the Birthday Giveback Project, Abigail partners with individuals with upcoming birthdays to raise donations for charities and the less fortunate in lieu of birthday presents. More than $220,000 was raised for the surgery and the project has been going ever since.

“The first person who wanted to do a birthday giveback was Nicole McLaren-Campbell. She raised over one million dollars to help students advance to tertiary education by paying for their exam fees and tuition and devices such as laptops and tablets. We also raised over $15,000 for the Wortley Home for Girls that went towards pillows because they were in need of pillows. Then [we raised] over $30,000 for food items at My Father’s House and [donated] over seven bags of clothes for Manning’s Hill Boys’ Home,” Abigail said.

The Birthday Giveback Project founder is also a small business owner and donates five per cent of all sales from her Ital Glow skincare products to birthday givebacks of the customers’ choice.

Active donation projects include the Wortley Home for Girls and assistance to 25-year-old Tiziana Rose with medical care for renal failure. Interested persons may contact the Birthday Giveback Project on Instagram to arrange for making contributions.

“Some people may view volunteering or giving back as a hassle, but I really think that donating is something that you can do in so many different ways. You just have to be creative and innovative with it. Just using your time wisely, and thinking of what you can do with your time to make others happy because it’s always so worth it to see the smile that you can put on somebody else’s face and see the life you’ve impacted,” she advised.