Two young women were yesterday able to tell their stories of success in spite of having grown up in children’s homes.
Their testimonials came during the visit of Gender, Youth and Child Development Minister Clifton de Coteau and other officials to the St Dominic’s Children’s Home and St Jude’s School for Girls in Belmont.
De Coteau outlined a number of plans by Government including the establishment of the National Children’s Registry and the establishment of Transition Houses. Those measures are intended to improve the lives of about 972 children from five to 19, living in institutions.
Originally from Point Fortin, Patrice Norton spoke to her audience of children and officials about her struggles to become an auditor. Her younger sister Adasha Norton has excelled in sports and wants to make the senior national netball team.
Both young women were able to relate their success stories because of their stay at St Jude’s School for Girls.
They were born to a mother hooked on cocaine.
Norton said: “It (our mother’s addiction) affected the quality of life. We lived in a shack. No toilet. No water. We were about five to six-years-old. Our mother would disappear for days. We would have to drink water for days to survive. Then she moved in with an old man. He taught us a thing or two about church. Our mother would visit us. She would be drugged out. She would act weird. She would say weird things.”
At one point, an elder sister and the police intervened.
“They would give us toys. But around September 1997, they decided they had to remove us from the depressing situation. We spent two days at a halfway house. I was 11. It was the first time I had a birthday party. I knew the situation was going to change,” said Norton.
Although their mother struggled with her cocaine addiction, Norton said she never forgot her mother would regretfully say: “If I could, I would have listened to my mother. If I could have gotten an education, I would have had a better life.”
When they moved to St Jude’s, and she started attending St Martin’s High School, Diego Martin, she decided to pursue an education. Later, she pursued her A-Levels at Malick Secondary and then attended university.
Norton said: “Without St Jude’s, it would not have been possible. The transition was difficult. There was no one to talk to me or understand my struggles. I tried to focus on my studies.”
Adasha Norton said: “At seven, I made a wish on my birthday. I wanted to live in Port of Spain. Two years after, we made the transition. I was nine. But I could not count. I did not know the alphabet. At St Jude’s I found out I could play tennis and netball. I went to St Vincent and Grenada. I even picked up hairdressing. Today I am an ambassador for St Jude’s.”
Norton said: “I don’t know my father. We still care for our mother. She is still on cocaine. We do not look down upon her. We try to let her know how strong her children are.”
Evans Thomas, from St Dominic’s Children’s Home, did not know his father.
His motivation came from his caregivers. “When there is someone who can say I believe in you, when there is someone to hold on to, that was what kept me.”
Thomas urged the children to take advantage of all opportunities available.
“There are few people who understand the psychology of growing up in a home. Don’t let anybody say to you “You are from a home.” Don’t ever stop believing in yourself. You are the only person who can determine how far you can reach.”