In this installment of Our Stories, Sherlyn Grant shares how she found her purpose after spending more than three decades locked away. For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience…this is Our Stories!
Meet Sherlyn Grant – Entrepreneur
After dropping out of All Age school in grade 8, Sherlyn Grant had no further formal education until she turned 48 years old. At the age of 48, she began to take evening classes and she did some CSEC subjects. One of her goals is to move forward from the CSEC subjects to go on to college to study theology. Before going back to school, her life was dedicated to her two daughters and her son. Her son, who is her third child, was born with severe Cerebral Palsy and she still takes cares of him today. Since the birth of her third child, Sherlyn has had to commit to caring for him full-time. This full-time care for a child who has no autonomy left her with no time to create a life outside of the home.
At the age of 25, before her son was born, Sherlyn learned how to sew. Sewing has been one of her passions and means of therapy ever since. Sewing also helped her to make a living and contribute to her household. However, after the birth of her son, her dreams were temporarily placed on the back burner. Sherlyn Grant’s story is one of determination and sacrifice. She shows us that it is never too late to start. It is never too late to find your goal and pursue it. It is never too late to make your wildest dreams come true.
- So why did you drop out of all-age school in grade 8? What happened?
It was in those days that after you reached grade 9 after you reached 15 years old, you should not go back to school. That’s what my parents believed. So I was 14, nearly 15 when I reached grade 8. So that was my last year.
- Oh, okay. So what did you do after that?
Nothing was provided for me to do than stay home. And be on your own. No one gave me anything. You just stayed home and no one gave you any advice. You would just stay home until you got pregnant.
- Okay. And then you got pregnant at 18. Did you have any support at that time?
Yes. I got pregnant with my first child at 18. I didn’t have any support from my family through that. I was not at home at that time. I was on my own. And then at 25, I learned how to sew.
- How did you get into sewing?
I followed my sister to her workshop. That is where I learned how to use the sewing machine. After that, I would just practice on my own. I would tear up old clothes and use the fabric to make things.
- Tell me more about when you had your son.
So I had two more children after my first daughter. The third one is my son. He was born with severe Cerebral Palsy. He is now 22 years old. And because of him in his condition, I have had to stay home not working for all of these years. Taking care of him is a full-time job. His brain is badly damaged. I have to do everything for him. If he has to defecate, I have to make sure I give him medication for that at the right time. I still have to know when to feed him. He cannot feed himself or move around on his own. He is just laying on his back. Nothing at all. It is a full-time job.
- Okay. That does sound like a full-time job. You are a very strong woman. So you were telling me about taking CSEC subjects. Can you tell me more about that?
The evening classes started at church. And at the age of 48, I decided that I was going to do 2 subjects, not knowing that I would pass anyway. I just wanted to get myself involved in something else. So I went and I did English and I did P.O.B. I got a 3 in English and I got a 1 in P.O.B. I just did Social Studies and Office Administration. I am waiting for the results for those.
- Do you plan to take your studies further after CSEC?
I am actually enrolled in the University of Biblical Studies where I’m studying theology. It’s a 2-year course. At the end, I will get an associate’s degree. I am hoping to be able to teach at the Bible class. I chose theology because that is what I know the best. That is what I have access to. Right now going to church is the main thing in my life. So I just plan on going further with it.
- That sounds great. But seeing that you are already in the Bible college, what’s your motivation to get more CSEC subjects?
Before starting the Bible college, CSEC was my testing ground to see whether I could still be of any use to the world. After being locked away for so many years you lose your sense of purpose and even become depressed because life seems pointless and meaningless. So when I got the opportunity to finally do some subjects, it really lifted my self-esteem. Even though getting the money to pay for them was hard it was worth the process. Also, I am doing more subjects because the young people in my community who didn’t finish school or didn’t do well in school are now motivated by my actions. They are now saying that if I can do it at my age, then nothing should stop them as school-age children from doing well too. They are taking up the challenging to do even better than me.
- Awesome. Good luck with your studies. So you recently started a business with your husband. Tell me more about that.
The business has two parts. I started a business making shirts with my friend’s daughter. We design formal shirts and jackets. And then I started the business of making bags with my husband. He is the one that gets most of the orders from where he works for the bag business. So the bag business is taking off. The name of the business is Royal G Designs. We just got on Instagram. The shirt business was on pause for a while as I was doing the subjects. But everything is picking up again now.
- That’s good to hear. What would you say is the biggest obstacle that you have overcome on your journey?
Well, 30 years of being locked up in the house and not working is a big challenge. I was just sitting in the house all day long with nothing to do but take care of my son. This is what really motivated me, in the end, to try and do something else with my life. I was not associating with anyone or really making friends that I can talk to, to add some colour to my day.
- What does success mean to you?
Success to me is seeing my children becoming the best they can be. And since my last child did not get a chance to fulfill any of these things I would like to do it for him. Because, in a way, my entire family became disabled when he was born. But we are now celebrating his “could-be” potential while learning every day to be patient and love him for every moment we are privileged to take care of him.
- What advice would you give to anyone out there who may be in the same position or feeling as though it is too late for them?
Just get up and try. Whatever it is that you can do. Suppose you can do hair. Just find some people and do their hair. And then people will tell other people. And that will spread the word for your new business and lead to something for you. Just get up do something. Or get a mentor. Because it is my first daughter that really mentored me and pushed me to do things. After being locked up for so long I was even afraid to be in a crowd or to meet new people. But I had to be brave and get out there with the help of God. I am just glad to do this interview to let somebody know that there is still life and there is still hope. You just have to try.
Thank you for sharing your story with us today, Sherlyn.
Follow Sherlyn on Instagram at Royal G Designs.