Let me preface this by making it clear that when I speak about the environment, I limit it to meaning the people who surround me.
When I consider why I am the way I am it is, hands down, as a result of the experiences in my life - largely due to the influences of my parents and my environment. The simplest version of this is that my dad has always exposed my brother and me to social work. We have always witnessed his involvement in the community and as a result have always recognised the importance of giving back and “lending a helping hand”.
If you happened to read my biography (no stress if you didn’t, it’s pretty boring) my academic and professional pursuits rarely tie in with the social work that I do, that is, I do not work professionally in any of the fields that I am involved with socially. This is because I have always seen social work and involvement as a responsibility that must be held in tandem with all the other responsibilities that we must adopt. This is how I’ve been exposed to social work – I’ve only ever witnessed it as an addition to everyday life. Is that the right way? I have no clue, but it seems to work for me. It helps me appreciate life’s everyday responsibilities and social responsibilities as separate and important entities.
One of the biggest driving forces behind my inspiration was my volunteering experience at Mustard Seed Communities (MSC), Jamaica in 2010. Incidentally MSC was founded by my dad’s brother, Msgr. Gregory Ramkissoon – so maybe there’s a little bit of nature/genetics in me being the person that I am, doing the work that I do. It was the experience of dealing with young, differently abled children, who were full of life, smiles, and love that mandated the paradigm shift (away from solely Siddel to that of others). If these kids who faced so much hardship could manage a smile, then why did I ever worry about a mere final year exam or missing a night out with friends?
Jamaica, I’m now realising, seems to be my land of discovery, since my first zip-lining experience there was largely important in forcing me to step out of my comfort zone. Though, I’ve since had many experience that have forced me to step out my comfort zone (QYLP being one of those), my first zip-lining experience will always be that initial eye-opener. Had my brother and mum not enthusiastically encouraged (forced) me to do it I would’ve missed out on a truly exhilarating experience. That got me thinking, at a relatively young age, that I should never be afraid to try something (within reason) at least one – these days I find myself questioning the meaning of “within reason”.
Now that I’ve caught on to the length of this, I’m beginning to worry that it’ll become a long and drawn out blog about me – but I think one other experience that really impacted me was travelling to London alone and surviving it. The independence that I gained from that trip was empowering. It may have also sparked what we locally refer to as “hot foot” for travelling, or an extreme love and desire to travel.
So, is it nature or nurture? I think it is definitely a mix of the two, but I have to say that nurture seems to reign supreme – the experiences I have had, as a result of my family, have really assisted in shaping who I am. There must be some genetics involved, or so I’d like to think. Also, if you know my mum, then she DEFINITELY has had an impact on the organising, cleanliness and order that I love and have come to expect. Now, if we go really in depth we start to consider one of my biggest supporters (they should know who they are), my extended family (aunts and cousins who are always there), a group of wonderful and amazing friends (#SVEN, #SVENandFriends, and the special one or two), the family I built out of founding my NGO, and some amazing mentors – but this would soon become a book, so I’ll stop now.
Final thought before I go - the monkeys are here to stay and they're secretly managing this blog!