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Don't Go! Victim of migration encourages parents not to leave children

Published:Sunday | May 2, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Philip Hamilton, Gleaner writer

ANYONE MEETING Janet Reidfor the first time would be struck by her colourful personality, typically associated with women of inner-city communities.

But underneath that exterior lies a shrewd woman who is constantly thinking of ways to survive and improve life for her two children and herself.

Reid, who grew up in Greenwich Town, told The Sunday Gleaner that she had never experienced the true love of her parents, as they lived in Canada. She remembers being shifted between households.

For many years, she never knew her parents, although they provided for her material needs, sent her to a prep school, and lavished gifts on her.

"My mother and father always sent clothes. I never knew what my father looked like until he returned to Jamaica when I was nine years old, as he was always in Canada."

A year later, Reid met her mother when she visited Jamaica to attend Reggae Sunsplash.

"My mother never spent much time with me when she came, as we were always driving up and down in a taxi, but she always gave me plenty money."

Reid said on one occasion when her mother sought to take her to Canada, her father refused to hand her over, calling her mother an irresponsible woman. Instead, he promised he would take her to Canada on his return.

However, several years passed and she grew tired of her father's constant promises, as she could not wait to travel abroad.

Reid agreed to meet her mother, who secretly came to take her back when she was 14 years old.

On arrival at her mother's house, she was in for a shock. She recalls police placing her mother in handcuffs and sending her back to Canada to face drug charges.

It was at that moment she understood why her mother had been able to spend so lavishly on her over the years.

Behaviour

"At the time she received that big sentence, I didn't miss her, as I wasn't accustomed to her. I never knew anything about her. I felt it for her that she got locked up, but it was nothing for me."

Reid's problems were further exacerbated when her father started showing interest in her 14-year-old friends. She admits not being able to talk to him about his behaviour, as she feared him.

She said her father was arrested for drug possession shortly after he returned to Canada. At the time, she had been attending a private high school and had to drop out as her grandmother could not afford the fees.

She was unable to finish her secondary-level education and subsequently went to work at a factory.

By this time, she had lost interest in returning to school and became pregnant twice.

After her second pregnancy, and with no steady income, a man approached her and asked if she was interested in earning some extra money.

She became a drug courier and lived in Britain for several years.

Since returning to Jamaica, she has been wary of migrating, again, noting the instability it had caused in her life.

"If you're not going abroad to get a steady income and can build something, don't go. Take it from me," Reid said.

Name changed on request.

philip.hamilton@gleanerjm.com