From security guard to manager: Mom of three picks up the pieces Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Compliance Manager at the Special Economic Zone Authority Carleen Clacken has, for the last few years, been building her legacy—one that can inspire her children to achieve greatness, despite their circumstances.

A typical dream for any parent, right? However, getting to where she is today, Clacken endured a lot.

According to the mother of three, her life up to 2011 was fraught with abuse.

She recounted that she had been with her now estranged husband since they were 17 years old.

Throughout their 20-year relationship, 13 of which they were married, they produced three children—two girls and a boy.

However, things got rough in 2005 when Clacken found out she was pregnant with their third child.

Carleen Clacken through the years.

“He said mi a breed, breed up, and mi did waan tie him down. I was his wife, and he was saying that to me. He said, ‘A one pickney mi did waan, and you get a next one, and it was a boy, and mi accept it, now yuh gone breed again so you deh pon you own’,” she recounted. 

Clacken disclosed that, at the time, she even harboured thoughts of cutting the unborn child from her body.

In fact, after the baby was born, it was her eldest child who helped care for the newborn as Clacken struggled with post-partum depression.

The month their third child was born, her husband was also made redundant from his job.

According to Clacken, she asked him for $100,000 to invest in her mother’s cookshop. She said she was given $20,000. In a few months, it was the cookshop’s profits that supported the family.

Clacken told Loop News that she would share what was happening at home with members of her church, however, she was always encouraged to work on her marriage as it was the work of the devil.

During this trying period, the family was living in Rockfort, East Kingston, and gun deaths in the area were very high. In fact, in 2007, her aunt and cousin were among seven people killed in one attack.

Always smiling, many were unaware of the struggles she was facing. However, it all came to a head in 2009 when she became paralysed for three days. 

Clacken recounted that she was readying to prepare breakfast when she passed out. This was when, she said, her husband visited her in hospital and told her she could not return home.

When she was released from the hospital, she lived with her mom. She said after she recovered sufficiently, her husband reportedly took her back into their home. 

Carleen Clacken on Christianity, marriage and why she returned home.

With the violence in Rockfort worsening, many businesses had to be shuttered, including that of her relative, which is where Clacken worked for a short while.

She said when her partner requested something of her that she thought was unforgivable, she was faced with a decision—she left the home they shared and moved to Bull Bay, St Andrew, with their children.

Following the break-up in 2012, her children had to receive counselling. She knew she had to step up for them, and this involved going back to school.

Clacken started working at Quest Security in 2013, and while there, she was accepted to HEART Academy in Rockfort where she studied business administration. 

Carleen Clacken when she worked as a security guard.

Though that period of her life was “rough”, she had a goal in mind. She and her children had to walk a mile from their Nine Miles home to the nearest bus stop for a JUTC bus into Kingston. When it became too taxing, she returned to Rockfort and lived in a house that was once a crime scene.

“Nobody wanted to rent the place. It was locked up for a while because they’d killed a man in there,” she said, adding that she patched the bullet holes at the premises and moved in with her children.

Around that time, she also completed her training as a security guard and was assigned to work at the Jamaican-German Automotive School on Maxfield Avenue. It was also time for her to start her course at the HEART/NSTA Trust location in Rockfort.

“I left work at 5 pm, and class started at 5 pm. I was late every day. I did the level one and the level two [in the course, and] applied for level three and was accepted. I did well in class. I wasn’t dunce; I was just misguided when I was younger,” Clacken laughed.

Ashamed of how she had been living, Clacken said she once hid from the people she knew. But, not anymore.

Her former high school friends started visiting her, and they encouraged her to complete her CSEC subjects.

Clacken said she completed social studies, office administration and principles of business on her own, and got help with mathematics and English language.

She told Loop News that she borrowed books from friends, used the newspaper’s study section, watched YouTube videos, and did seminars with CXC to be successful in her exams.

Experiencing the joys of improving herself, Clacken had no intention of slowing down.

Carlene Clacken graduates from Caribbean Maritime University.

Soon after, with some encouragement, she decided to complete a degree in Security Administration and Management at Caribbean Maritime University (CMU).

While she did well in her studies, it also meant that between working as a security guard at night and attending school full-time, she didn’t see her children as much.

She later secured an internship at the Special Economic Zone Authority. Clacken said she was late for her first day as an intern. She was required to work for five months, and 40 hours per week. Needing the money, she accepted the internship opportunity.

She was now working for eight hours during the day as an intern and 12 hours at night as a security guard, and she attended school on the weekend. 

Though it was difficult, Clacken said at no point did she think about giving up. Instead, she lived out of her backpack, taking showers at the location where she worked as a security guard to ensure she made it to her job as an intern the following day.

When her internship was coming to an end, she applied for the post of compliance officer at the Special Economic Zone Authority. She was successful, and instead of being hired as the compliance officer, Clacken was taken on as the compliance manager with a life-changing salary.

She told Loop News that her employers had been watching her during her internship, and they respected her work ethic, plus her experience as a security supervisor was an asset, and she was also in the process of completing her degree—all of which worked in her favour.

Carlene Clacken signs a copy of her children’s book.

Clacken said she is happy that she can start a legacy that her children can respect and that can inspire others.

The mother of three has since written and self-published a children’s book and wants to start a podcast to inspire others.

As for her children: her eldest is an entrepreneur abroad, her son is developing his music career, and the youngest is preparing to do an engineering degree.

“So I have my academic, my musician and my entrepreneur, those are my three children,” said Clacken.