'Just keep your head high' – Jamaica Observer

AFTER losing her mother at age 13, Davisha Wilson moved from one foster home to the next. Janiece Gallimore, at age six, became a ward of the State when her mother could no longer manage to take care of her and her three siblings.
The two women will tell you life has not been easy for them; however, they remained steadfast in becoming successful and were eventually among 14 wards of the State who were each recipients of scholarships valued at US$3,500 through Children of Jamaica Outreach (COJO) at its annual scholarship luncheon programme, held on Monday at the AC Hotel in St Andrew.
Wilson, who is currently a third-year student at the University of Technology, Jamaica pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Adolescent Development, said the scholarship will give her the extra financial boost she needs to complete her studies.
“It will definitely give me a major push because, seeing that I have faced a lot of challenges, that caused me to not complete some of my modules. I was planning to do an extra year, so this scholarship will help me to complete my final year,” she told the Jamaica Observer at the luncheon.
She said, as a victim of abuse, she is positive that she will become a great children’s advocate for other youngsters who have endured a similar fate.
“I want to advocate for children who are in need, who have been neglected, abused, whether physically or emotionally. Being a ward of the State, I see the need for children to be advocated for and I think I could be a very prime example of ‘your circumstances do not determine your future’,” she said.
“The toughest experience to date was losing my mom at about age 13 and having to travel from one place to another and sometimes I [ended up] in homes with no good treatment. I have experienced physical and emotional abuse and I faced a lot of challenges that [made] me feel like giving up,” said Wilson, adding that she has received strong support from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency and her foster family.
Meanwhile Gallimore, who got accepted at The University of the West Indies, Mona, to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Electronics, said the scholarship will help her to make history in her family as the first member to do tertiary studies.
“I am a ward of the State and also living with my foster parent. They don’t really have financial support, so this scholarship will lift some weight off their backs. It will benefit me a lot. I will also be the first in my family to go to college, so I feel special,” she said.
“My mom had four of us and all of us are in foster care. I have come a long way in and out of foster care, so now I am settled with my foster parents who support in every way they can,” she added.
She encourages other wards of the State to stay focused on achieving their goals.
“No matter where you are coming from, just keep your head high. Keep focused and do not allow anyone to tell you that you can’t do something. As long as you have that mindset, you can achieve anything,” said Gallimore.
Since its inception in 1994, COJO which is operated by Gary Williams, has dedicated human and financial resources to help make a difference in the lives of underserved children in Jamaica and the United States.
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