By: Trace-Ann Gooden, Jamaica
I grew up in what was referred to as a squatters community or captured land. Families living there were below the poverty line. It meant that most were living in poor conditions and seeking a way out. Some women sought refuge in sexual relationships which, more often than not, resulted in early motherhood. I too wanted a better life. Through the help of mentors and teachers who could see my potential, I started to perceive good in myself as well.
At age nine, I enrolled in my local Red Cross chapter with help from my primary school teacher, who paid for my enrollment and uniform. The more I got involved in the Red Cross, the more my ambition to become a nurse grew.
When I was a child, there was a lot of stigma and discrimination around people living with HIV/AIDS. The Red Cross equipped me with the knowledge to see people with HIV/AIDS as who they truly are - human beings who needed care, love, and support. In high school, I became president of my Red Cross chapter, leading my team to win national competitions. During this time, I also developed a keen relationship with my faith that has helped me build my integrity and values.
In high school, I failed a mathematics course that was a qualifier for me to enter nursing school. I tried to re-register, but my principal at the time thought it was a waste of time to do so for just one class. Since I couldn’t enroll in nursing school, I volunteered with my church for a year while I continued to study for the math exam. At the end of the year, I took the math exam and passed. I began university to pursue my passion to become a nurse.
Being a nurse has not only opened the door for me to help others, but has also allowed me advance myself as a citizen. Nursing gave me the opportunity to take my first international trip as a youth delegate at the International Conference on Family Planning in Ethiopia. I also help underserved communities through health fairs and have joined forces with the youth information center in my community to lead a program called “Youth Advance.” This program gives young people an outlet to learn more about how they can become part of efforts to achieve universal healthcare and advocates for their own lives.
My encouragement to other young women is to take charge of your own life. There comes a point when you sit and examine where you are and where you want to be. If you are not where you want, then then it’s time for action.
I know this is just the beginning of great things. Certainly, I am not where I was and I know I have more to achieve. We all deserve a chance to be our best selves. I have one life to live and I need mine to count for something worthwhile.
#YoungWomenSay is a partnership with Say It Forward in support of International Youth Day 2018 and culminating on International Day of the Girl. The campaign features blogs from incredible young women from around the world, and is designed to harness the power of storytelling and social media to drive attention to their lived experiences, dreams, and aspirations.