by Latoya Burnham
Crane Beach, Six Roads, the University of the Square. Say any of these and the people of St. Philip either smile with satisfaction, or look at you with respect, especially that you know of the latter.
Each in its own way represents a point of pride for St. Philip Ambassadors, 18-year-old Dione Applewhite and 24-year-old Omar Weekes, but their journey to this point, just days away from the Spirit of the Nation Gala that will determine their fate as representatives, hasn’t been an easy road for the two.
Dione in particular, has had to battle with her concern about her sick mother who was hospitalised for part of the programme, while her partner Omar has tried to be a stabilising influence in the midst of what can be described as a rigorous experience.
Omar was happy when he realised who his partner for the programme would be. He had known Dione for a while, and had gone to school with her older sister.
Dione, on the other hand, was willing to work with anyone she was teamed with, as one way or another she believed the programme held the key to helping her develop into the young lady she wanted to be. So when the opportunity presented itself, she jumped on board and despite her challenges, has not regretted it.
“It was really difficult going to the hospital on afternoons or evenings, coping with UWI, then having to go to training for the programme. It really took a toll on me, but at the end of the day I had the committee and my family members who stood around me, helping me, calling me every day, sending out emails and letting everybody know to hold hands in prayer and keep me filled in. They were really helpful,” said the young woman.
Her mom has been back home for a little over two weeks now, which has allowed Dione a measure of comfort to focus more on the task at hand – helping Omar represent their parish well.
Dione is a student of Tourism Management, while Omar is pursuing a degree in Accounts, Economics and Management.
When the two, as shy as they are, begin to talk about St. Philip, their faces light up. Their project is Builders of Our Fate – Because You Were, I Am, looking at the 10 persons who would have made outstanding contributions to the parish in areas such as education, sports, community service, entertainment, culture and politics.
It has allowed them the space to learn more about the parish and when they start to rattle off the details of what makes St. Philip outstanding, you really have to stop them mid-mark.
Omar told of his days growing up in Diamond Valley and rushing home from school to change clothes so he could go out and play any of the many games like rounders, football, cricket with the children of the neighbourhood.
Dione had similar treats, but what really made her appreciate the parish was venturing into the City and realising how much more peaceful her neighbourhood farther south was by comparison.
Ask about the University of the Square and the laughter and tales begin of politicians and other young men who grew up spending time in this Six Roads area that no longer exists, where they would gather to chat, reason or play a game or two.
Memories and activities like these, they reflect are somewhat missing today, but still found in certain corners of St. Philip.
Omar said the increased training schedule is all the indication that they know that the show is near and so they have been doing everything in their power to ensure they are ready for the task ahead.