In this installment of Our Stories, university student Tenuke Doyley explains how she lives up to her name…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!

“Is like me see blessings and run up inna dat.”

Meet Tenuke Doyley – Fourth year Communications student at the University of Technology

Tenuke– whose name translates to “blessed from the womb”, shows her mental brilliance in every classroom she enters, at first glance she shows someone who has it all together, she is beautiful, poised and carries herself with a purpose. It’s almost hard to believe that just a couple years ago Tenuke and her mother were struggling to stay afloat, roaming the streets of Portmore in the days and at night, the two retired to an empty classroom in the area and slept. Yet, they never stopped fighting and today she dominates the stage and classroom.

Describe your life growing up.

It can only be described as hills upon hills and valleys. I spent majority of my younger years living in Trench Town and at that time, I probably lived on every street in that community. All the houses that I’ve lived in, unfortunately wasn’t equipped with indoor plumbing. We had pit toilets and probably a little hut outside for the kitchen. My mother worked as a helper for a family and so every article of clothes I had was handed down to me from these families. My mother and I had to collect bottles and resell them to get by because what she would get from the families were literally scraps of leftovers. After a while things just got worst.

How did you end up homeless?

We never truly had a place of our own. We would always be moving from one friend’s yard to another. After a while there were no friends left to take us in, they could no longer house us. We found ourselves in Portmore because my mom had a friend there who she thought could potentially help us, but like everyone else, she wasn’t able to assist us so we started sleeping in front of a hat store on Portmore Mall and by 5am we were up just roaming around Portmore. This went on for little over a year and then my mother met the watchman for Kensington Primary and he was kind enough to let us sleep there.

Describe the sleeping situation at Kensington Primary.

You know them little storage room where they would keep the mop and things them? Yea, it was that room. The watchman allowed us to stay there after the principal of the school left at about 5:30pm and we would have to be out by 6:00am the next morning. The door of the room did break down and them lean it up in there. We made that white door our bed, we would sleep there with this little green sheet with one bag a “frilly-frilly” satin design on it and we red towel and we three plastic bags of clothes that we substituted as pillows. Those items became so important to me;[laughs] the white door, the green sheet and the red towel. That was it, that’s all we had. It was a rough life, but my mother was a fighter and she was determined to fight for me.

What kept you motivated throughout those hardships?

My mother and the idea of something better. We had a red towel and every day my mom would wash my uniform and ring dry it in the towel; and I’m not sure where she went but she would go and get it ironed. My mother would ensure that my uniform was clean and pressed for the following school day. If she went out to get something for me to eat nine out of ten times she would come back with something; and I always wonder,

‘how she do dat, how she go weh and come back with tea and food and uniform press?’

But she didn’t let that be one of my worries, she wanted me to focus on school. I knew from that time I had to succeed for her, she deserves to have a great daughter. The idea of something better is also what kept me afloat, I knew my life can’t stuck so forever. I wasn’t sure how it was going to change or when it was going to change but I was certain it would change one day.

Where or what was the turning point in your life that contributed to you overcoming your circumstances?

My life changed at 105 Constant Spring Road at Consumer Plaza. I was walking on the plaza and a lady saw me and said, ‘what a girl pretty‘. I said thank you and walked away. The next day I’m walking by again and I saw the same lady, but this time she was surrounded by some artists and I walked over asked her if she was an artist and she told me she was a producer, that when I said, ‘Eeh, you know say me can sing though and I start singing so loud up and down the plaza, I drew crowd. She then asked where I live, I told her nowhere, she said, ‘So where you going?’ I said I don’t know yet. She took me and my mother in and changed our lives. A year later I was doing my first paid gig as a vocalist on tour in Canada with Richie Spice and Chuck Fenda. I started working and never took a break. I am now able to provide a home for me and my mother and I’m able to put myself through school.

Why did you decide to pursue a degree in Communications?

You know honestly, I didn’t enroll for me. I enrolled for my mother. If it was up to me I’d be living my life on the stage, but my mother always wanted me to be the best I could be. She always said, ‘Ten just get the degree and then I can drop dead’ so you must know how bad she want it. After all the things she’s done for me, how could I not? I chose Communications though because I thought it was the perfect way for me to give a voice to the voiceless.

Has your circumstances affected you in any way?

Many persons have commented on how elated I should be, and it’s not that I’m not but up to this day sometimes I wake up feeling like a walking wreck. Sometimes I sit down and it becomes a lot because you know you have a lot of undealt with issues related to the psychological abuse, the emotional abuse and the sexual abuse I was exposed to. Many people will say, from you go through that and get over that, leave it. Why revisit those times? But you just can’t help it and it makes some days a bit hard.

How have you given back to the Trench Town community?

I feel like it is my duty to take care of the people of Trench Town. I feel like I’ve been mandated to take care of them. At this point I am only mentoring one young girl, very bright girl. Recently they shot up 4th Street and she was shot in the arm and it tore me up. When I see her, I see so much of myself and I feel like, if she doesn’t have to walk the road I walk the world will be a better place. So if a the last money me have she a get it to go school. She’s become an important aspect of my life and I’m doing everything to ensure she makes it out. I hope to expand the mentorship project to other children in the community very soon.

That’s amazing Tenuke! Thanks for sharing your story.

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