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FEATURE STORY

"Escaping poverty is my motivation on the bumpy PATH to success"

January 27, 2014

Chevano Baker studies at University of West Indies, Kingston

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Program of Advancement through Health & Education has helped Jamaica strengthen its social protection system.
  • Nearly a half a million socially vulnerable Jamaicans have accessed new opportunities through the PATH programme.
  • Thanks to the financial support from the programme, Chevano Baker is now studying at the University of West Indies.

On the face of it, nineteen year old Chevano Baker is just like any other college kid in the Caribbean.

However his journey has been paved with obstacles, largely due to the circumstances of his birth. “I can tell anyone that getting funds for tertiary education is really tedious, especially when you are poor. I come from a community marked by high youth unemployment and immobility and many of those who are self-employed function on a subsistence level”, he says with a quiet smile,

Yet Chevano continues to battle the odds with dogged determination.  When we caught up with him on a study break this week, he reflected on his progress since emerging on top of his class at Manchester High in rural Jamaica in 2011 and inched closer to his dream of becoming an actuary. After a semester at the University of the West Indies, he now boasts a 3.6 grade point average in what is often described as a very rigorous and demanding program.

His family still found it difficult to send him to school when he hit the secondary level even though Chevano seems to take it all in stride.. The cost of transportation and school material were made it a struggle for this modest farming family.

Through Jamaica’s Program of Advancement through Health & Education, PATH, Chevano’s family was able to bridge the gap between potential and success. PATH is a conditional cash transfer program under the World Bank’s Social Protection project. Chevano had to be dogged in his determination to continue excelling, because nobody gets a free pass just because of need. Having conquered the hurdle of high school and landing handsomely in college, the struggles have not abated.

“Despite my academics, volunteerism, extra-curricular activities and leadership abilities; I was yet to secure a scholarship to take care of my first year expenses once I got to the University of the West Indies. On numerous occasions, I was asked why I did so many subjects or advised that poor students should wait until they can afford it to go to university,” he says.

However, Chevano was not buying it – because his parents had , instilled in him thirst for knowledge which he converted into a burning desire to succeed.

“I do not have to be the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance of the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica – but I WILL contribute to fixing our financial problem”, he enthused. “Thanks to that kick start from PATH which opened the door to decent secondary level education, I now have a clear vision for my life, and a burning desire to contribute to the development of my country”, Baker concluded.

Open Quotes

On numerous occasions, I was asked why I did so many subjects or advised that poor students should wait until they can afford it to go to university. Poverty has motivated me to excel. Close Quotes

Chevano Baker
UWI student and PATH beneficiary

Chevano’s faith and focus are now paying dividends as he recently won the nationally prestigious Jamaica Open Scholarship from Jamaica’s Ministry of Education. He attributes this victory in part to his summer work tenure at the Bank of Jamaica. “I was able to understand what it takes to translate public assistance not just to serving country, but how to later sustain myself financially going forward. Working at the Bank was just a dream, but now it is part of my reality as a professional in the making – thanks to PATH.”

What is next for Chevano? “Poverty has motivated me to excel. Problems, failures, disappointments, frustration, fear and self-doubt are just some of the distractions along the road to success. Be resilient, vigilant and militant so that you can turn your adversities into achievements,” he waxed philosophical for those still grappling with the effects of poverty.

His parting shot before returning to the library at 10:00 pm this cool Monday night in Kingston was a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’ and then admonished  “Today I do believe and I encourage you to do the same.”

Nearly a half a million socially vulnerable Jamaicans have found a PATH to new opportunities through this program.and other countries in the region including The Bahamas, Belize, Grenada and St Lucia, are following the Jamaica experience and have rolled out similar CCT programs. CCTs have become a vital part of poverty reduction strategies in many countries, particularly in Latin America.