Former ward Isaiah Ashton grateful for safe home
For Isaiah Ashton, the circumstances that led to him being released from a children’s home into the Friends in Need Safe Home in Manchester decades ago was not luck, but rather a blessing that later transformed his life.
The German native, who came to Jamaica at a young age with his German mother, found himself in a children’s home years later after his mother fell ill and could no longer care for him. Despite his current appreciation for the experiences that helped shape him, he said this turned out to be one of the most trying periods in his life.
“It wasn’t a great experience, to be honest. I was half-white with dreadlocks, and the kids use to mob me… . I often felt alone. I got into a lot of fights. I didn’t eat pork, but I was forced to eat it because I was told they weren’t making any exceptions, so I had to eat what they gave me.”
His life was changed by Yvonne Townsend, the owner of the Friends in Need Safe Home, who at the time also served as a police officer assigned to the children’s court. Several children were entrusted into Townsend’s care by the then judge. It was at court that Townsend saw Ashton and decided she would also take him in.
“During the proceedings, I heard a child say ‘Your honour if you send me back home, I’m going to kill myself’, so I told the judge to give him to me. After that, I saw Isaiah, and something about him struck me. I knew he didn’t belong where he was, and so I also took him,” Townsend told The Gleaner.
Ashton said Townsend gladly accepted him and opened the doors of new opportunities for him to grow in a space where he found comfort.
“She treated me like I was one of her own. She has a daughter, and she treated us the same. She made sure I went to school. We didn’t have much, she wasn’t a rich person, but she did her best, and she taught me a lot of things.”
BASIC LIFE SKILLS
The 36-year-old attributes his basic life skills and solid childhood to the parenting style of Townsend, who he said made it her duty to provide a safe space, be a second mother and sometimes the only mother for the children she took into her care.”
“She was very important in my life. My mother was sick, and she had always been sick, so I understood that she couldn’t care for me… . I stayed with Ms Townsend for a few years, and her daughter and I grew up like brother and sister.”
Townsend shared that Ashton was a brilliant child, who was able to pass his Common Entrance exam to earn a place at the Manchester High School.
“He was very smart. He would stick out his hand for a handshake when he met people and introduce himself. He even used to call into the Mutty Perkins radio show. I remember one day he said to me that he had the potential to become a gunman, but because of what I taught him, he knows better.”
After spending 13 years in Jamaica, Ashton was assisted by Townsend to reconnect with his older brother and other relatives back in Germany, where he currently lives.
She said she wanted him to have a better life, and she knew his talent and intelligence would be better served in a country that could provide even more resources for his success.
“When I went back to Germany, it was difficult because it was a new chapter for me. I couldn’t speak the language, so I had to learn it fast and get to know new friends and the country. But over the years, everything turned out good.”
Ashton, who was able to go back to school and complete his studies, said he formerly worked as an apprentice but now has solid placement in the automobile industry. Despite the adverse circumstances he endured growing up, he has no regrets. “I am glad Ms Townsend came into my life; if she didn’t, I don’t know what would happen. I thank God every day that she came into my life… . It is important to have people like this in the world because people need help and good people, and we have somebody who is looking out for us and is willing to take [on] the task even when they don’t have much.”
Ashton said with the highlight of his life being the birth of his daughter, he will continue to instil in her the values he was taught while at the safe home and seek to inspire those who may be in a similar situation.
“My encouragement to children who are in the position I was in is don’t give up hope, believe in faith. When you do good, good will follow you,” he said.