‘PATH made me the man I am today,’ says beneficiary Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) has been a crucial safety net, impacting the lives of some 350,000 beneficiaries from almost 130,000 families across Jamaica.

Among the beneficiaries is Zackarie Campbell, a university student who lives in Portmore Pines in St. Catherine, and who has been on PATH since childhood.

“PATH has always been a part of my journey. I was first enrolled in PATH in 2009 by my mother and my father. My earliest memories of the programme date back to high school when we used to get box lunches, until it evolved into PATH giving us more liberties by providing lunch tickets to decide upon what we wanted to buy,” he recalled.

Campbell delivered a moving testimonial during Wednesday’s staging of the ‘On the PATH to Transformation’ town hall meeting put on by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security at the HEART College of Construction Services Auditorium in Portmore, St Catherine.

He explained that the full significance of PATH for him at that time was the economic and social support the programme provided when the family suffered a major loss.

“When I just started high school, I lost my mother to cancer. At the time, my father had three of us boys, and he was the only person taking care of us, so that was a big burden,” recalled Campbell.

The family was living in Trench Town, St Andrew at the time, and his father wanted to relocate.

“PATH played a very big role in my development. Because of the things that PATH took care of, my father could divest his very limited resources into other things,” Campbell said.

By 2017, as an upper sixth-form student at Kingston College, he was representing the institution in Television Jamaica’s Schools’ Challenge Quiz, and had his eyes set on enrolling in a tertiary institution after high school.

This would make him the first person in his family to reach that level and, as he put it, his parents had sacrificed all they had for the family.

It was a PATH scholarship that eventually propelled him to the tertiary level, where he said the journey “wasn’t easy and wasn’t smooth”.

“Looking back, all of those things were good for self-discovery because they revealed to me a lot about myself that I never knew until that moment,” said Campbell.

At first, he was enrolled at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in an electrical engineering programme, but he was unable to complete the course.

“With the support system that I got from PATH, I was able to re-enroll at UTech (University of Technology) in the same programme, and now I am at final year,” the proud beneficiary said.

Today, he is a shining example of how the programme can impact lives in a positive way, and he is always willing to tell his story.

Still, the determined youngster has one regret.

“My biggest regret is that my father who was there with me throughout the entire journey, won’t be able to see me completing this degree because in August of last year, he succumbed to his illness – he was sick with cancer for some time,” said Campbell.

“It was a very difficult time because everything I was doing was to try and live up to the standard he had set for me. At that time, I was also an intern at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the office embraced me and comforted me.

“I would not have been able to make it (without that support). PATH was there for much of my development, and it has made me into the man I am today,” Campbell declared.

Portfolio Minister, Pearnel Charles Jr, who is currently leading the PATH programme towards transformation, said testimonies like that from Campbell indicate the tremendous work that PATH has already done.

“If I needed any reminder of how important this process is, or any reminder of the success that the PATH team and all who have contributed to PATH have already achieved, then these testimonials have certainly affirmed for me,” the minister said.

At the same time, he underscored that the programme must continuously improve in response to present-day circumstances.

“Times have changed, circumstances have changed, we are evolving and, as leaders, our responsibility is to ensure that we are constantly and consistently improving,” Charles Jr added.