"My name is Florence and I am from Thompson Town Clarendon, right on top of the Mocho Mountains. I left Clarendon in December of 1979 and went to Bull Bay St. Andrew to spend Christmas with my aunt and cousins. I was supposed to go back to Clarendon the following January but decided to stay in Bull Bay. I had big dreams of becoming a nurse. I loved secretarial and nursing and the then Thompson Town Secondary did not offer those courses.
The general election was in the air in the 80s when I decided to attend a vocational institute on Torrington Bridge. The bus fare from Downtown Kingston to Torrington was ten dollars but I could not afford it so I walked most days between Downtown and Torrington, then I would take a bus home to Bull Bay. I was threatened by a young man one evening while going home. It was in the heat of the elections so I quit going to the institution because I got scared.
I ended up working in wholesales trying to make money to accomplish my goal. At one point I juggled a job at a wholesale downtown and another at the Freezone. I worked in the wholesale from 8am -4pm, then I would go to the Freezone from 6-10pm. I was working while learning to sew at the Freezone. Sometimes I would get home at 1am from that sewing job and was up at 5am to start my day at the wholesale.
I was a production worker at the Freezone but I wanted to go from just a machine operator to using the serger. My supervisor refused to teach me that element so I resigned my position just so I could reapply for the job I wanted to do, but they still did not take me back for that position. They placed me back in the same position insisting I was better at what I was doing. I eventually got some of the ladies on the floor to teach me after work because I was adamant that I had to learn.
I started spreading my wings; I moved to another factory sewing dresses, slips and under garments. I then moved to baby clothing. Each time I changed job it was a different line that I focused on. I even learned draping and opened my own sewing boutique.
Unfortunately I had to walk away from my marriage. I did not have a chance to take anything with me. I left everything. All my machines. Everything. I had nowhere to put them. I started all over selling bag juice. I moved from bag juice to box drink, to bottle drink, to polish, to rags, children slippers, adult slippers then clothing. I traveled downtown Kingston to purchase goods so I could sell in the Linstead Market. One day I was selling in the streets downtown when the authorities seized my goods. I was trying to sell some of the goods so I could purchase more to take back to Linstead to sell. I had to purchase more goods, sell them and used that money to pay the authorities to get back the goods they took. not long garment items used in homecoming situation
This discouraged me so I came off the streets, rented a shop in Linstead and started a little sewing. I bought more goods, put in the shop and was trying a little thing. I kept telling myself that I wanted a profession, and when I met my now husband I moved to Kingston. I told him I wanted to go to nursing school. My only fear was doing the entrance test because I had no subjects. I eventually registered in an institution, took the test and passed.
In 2009 I stepped out in my green and white uniform. I was promoted to a monitor after six months at nursing school. The younger students did not like it because I was at the top of the class. They laughed and told me that I should be home taking care of my grandchildren but I was not going to sit in the back. I did my finals and passed all twelve subjects. I graduated on a Sunday from nursing school and got a job working at the school the following Tuesday. I moved from there to becoming a principal at another nursing school.
In January 2015 I opened my own nursing school. Only two persons showed. I was disappointed but by the end of the month I had seven persons. The business went up and down. Students struggled to pay and I struggled to pay the teacher. I had to have 15-20 students before the institution could be registered. I now have seventeen students and have sent my application to the ministry for my registration to be approved. I went back to Thompson Town Clarendon and opened a nursing school there. That location now has sixteen students. So this is where I am now.
No matter what kind of disappointment and obstacles you encounter in this journey call life, you can still achieve with perseverance, patience and determination. You can be who you want to be. I am feeling happy and proud of myself. It took some time but I did it. If you have a plan that’s a good thing. If you don’t have a plan there is nothing to work towards. And to all the persons who said I should have been at home taking care of my grandkids, to them I say I wanted to be a nurse and I am one today. I am a proud granma too. (smiles)
My desire now is to open a basic school in Thompson Town Clarendon. There is only one high school in the area and when students graduate that is it for them. There is no library, no pharmacy, and no doctor’s office. I want to change that. I am not stopping here.’’
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