How The Trenchtown Stirring Occured
By Naomi Isabel
If you mention Trenchtown to people and they know it, its thanks to Trenchtown Records and the stardom of the one and only Bob Marley. Most people however do not know Trenchtown is a ghetto nor do they realize its third world conditions mean that the health and welfare of the residents is extremely poor and there’s a very high illiteracy rate amongst the youth and adults there.
I must first explain my reason for visiting before I can describe my days there. The easiest way to get to know me is through my words. Since the age of 10 I wrote endlessly in a journal I was given by a friend. I didn’t know it at the time but she had given it to me to help me cope with the ‘situation’ I was in. My parents divorced early and my home as young child was volatile, even my parents would have to admit if they did things over it would be different. Surrounded by drugs, alcohol, and abuse of all sorts I needed an escape, a world to disappear to. My escape of choice was to walk to the top of our country property, a dry Australian landscape with gum trees and tall grass where I would imagine and write.
Not only would I write about my school life and how many boys I had a crush on, but I also wrote poetry. Poetry that came naturally from all the emotions I experienced; loss, pain, heartache, love, music and so on. These journals continued to the age of 25.
FAST FORWARD 15 – 20 years from the beginning and I decide that that poetry made me who I am today and though it’s not so easy to share intimate feelings with the world I made the decision to simply do it in hope that someone going through similar situations could be blessed. I have no reason to gain anything from my words. I want them to help others see that no matter what you go through you can come out the other side, not just a survivor, but a success.
Upon returning from my first trip to Jamaica I felt so overwhelmed with love for the people that I wanted to give back to them somehow? So I started googling of course! I found the website for the Trenchtown Reading centre and I remember stating to the girls at work excitedly I’ve found my calling! Tears streamed down my face and I laughed at myself. In all honestly I then forgot about the centre for 7 years. Yep 7 years later I decide to answer that little tug of war happening in my heart and get off my backside and do something about it!
I self-published my poetry collection, the most horrible stuff first (horrible as in painful memories) and decided that If anyone was to purchase it (which you are welcome to!) then all profits would go to the centre. I then decided I should give them the book so I figured I had to get on plane and give them the book, plus many more books, plus a Christmas party and whatever else I could possibly do!
So it began. The fundraising, the awareness, the teaching in schools, the empowerment and enlightenment of the youth both here and there. I was so blessed to form a great friendship with the very courageous and strong woman who runs the centre over the past year keeping in contact with her made all the difference. I will get to explaining why this is not a gig for weary hearts. Even for myself who has withstood many battles – I still got overwhelmed in the streets of Trenchtown.
Many people objected to what I was about to do. Going to spend time in what is often a violent and dangerous community. When my partner at the time learned about what I was doing, I got an “over my dead body” reaction!
My own children had mixed reactions but I knew they trusted in me after the discussions we had about following your passions and helping others. My son told me one morning ‘Mum, I’m so proud of you’. Coming from a 12 year old it brought tears to my eyes, yet again! Lol I’m the kind of girl who gets tears at the drop at the drop of a hat! I cry when I’m happy, I cry when I’m sad. Just a couple of tears and laughter and I am good to go again!
I questioned myself many times but a good friend in Portmore assured me that even if it changes one life it will all be worth it. So I carried this thought in me whenever I was overwhelmed with planning functions and raising money or trying to! (Note to self: Go back and check if they even remember me haha). In my heart of hearts nothing was going to stop me, even the news of escapees from jail, even when my Jamaican friend refused to go there with me! Even when I couldn’t pay my bills, or eat more than a muesli (granola) bar, I was gonna get the job done!
Fundraising merchandise for Trenchtown reading center
Fundraising merchandise for Trenchtown reading center
Implementing my plans to teach crafts and create a Christmas party meant I had to communicate with the founder of the centre. I would not recommend visiting unless someone is aware you are going there first, for your own safety but also because it’s a learning centre with children who have rights to be protected from the public. There is now a group who runs tours to the centre from their base in Negril, however I choose not to mention the name of it as I have not personally met them. I prefer to only recommend what I know.
So if you wish to visit, donate or simply enlighten yourself, head to www.trenchtownreadingcentre.com and drop Roslyn an email introducing yourself if you desire to contribute or visit.
Now I’m so looking forward to telling you about the faces I met and the struggles I faced on my trip which is still fresh in my mind from Christmas 2012 but the detail will have to wait til the next blog. At least you know the whys! Next up will be the whos!
Peace and LOVE