Ruth Carey: Called to serve

Ruth Carey: Called to serve


Monday, January 27, 2020

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RUTH Carey always knew that her calling was to serve, and a career of service was her only clear intention when she graduated from St Andrew High School for Girls. When she went on to obtain her bachelors in legal studies at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, many would have assumed that she was following in the footsteps of her father, Justice Boyd Carey, who served as a judge of the Court of Appeal in Jamaica, The Bahamas and Belize.

But she was not interested in becoming an attorney. She felt, from a tender age, that God had a greater plan for her to serve in a different way.

“I thought law was a good foundation to begin with, regardless of whatever area I landed in,” she told All Woman from her home in Gordon Town, St Andrew. “So I did my undergraduate degree in the states, and then I went to England where I did my postgraduate degree.”

When Carey came back to Jamaica in 2004, she returned with two things — a master's in international political economy, and a desire to serve her country in any way she could.

“My first job out of college was doing consulting,” she grinned. “And I remember my boss at that time said to me, 'Alright, you want to serve? Watch me and you. I'm going to put you on a project in the Government and see if you still want to serve.' And I sure did!”

While conceding that her first real experience as a consultant was a challenging eye-opener, she realised that it was something she enjoyed doing and had an aptitude for.

“I was in the Ministry of Justice doing their strategic plan on a consultancy,” she recalled. “I also worked on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, and reviewed it to make recommendations.”

But Carey was just getting her feet wet. She would soon move on to work on projects in nearly all the Caribbean territories.

Her love for community-based projects might have stemmed from the sense of belonging she felt when her mother, who is the deputy colonel of the Moore Town Maroons, took her to that community as a child and she saw first-hand how community members caring for each other can help the entire society to move forward. She found herself implementing and testing a number of community projects in the Ministry of Justice.

“It was a wonderful experience. It reminded me of my childhood and being home here with my mom, and I got to see how you can change the life of an individual through a process, and that was, at the time, restorative justice,” she said.

It was in 2015, however, after spending time with her ailing father, who eventually passed, that Carey had an epiphany.

“I decided to open a consulting company and I decided it was going to be called the Centre for Social Transformation,” she shared. “The idea was that I was going to help to transform Jamaica by helping the Government to implement processes and make sure that they work, because I've seen so many programmes come and go and not last.”

After doing consultancy with the Office of the Children's Advocate and in other Caribbean territories, Carey was asked to return to work in the Government. She decided, though, to fulfil some personal ambitions. She got married, and shortly after, pregnant.

Before she knew what was happening, Carey, who had never before faced an illness that could not have been cured using a simple herbal mixture from her Maroon cousins, found herself in a tumultuous pregnancy.

“I had to be hospitalised three times in my first trimester, and had surgeries performed while pregnant,” she divulged. “One night when I was entering the third trimester I was in pain, and Dr [Sharmaine] Mitchell instructed me to go straight to the hospital. My son Sebastian had decided to come early, and two days after he was born [at 33 weeks], they told me that I had to be transferred to the University Hospital of the West Indies because they still could not resolve what was happening to me, and it was getting worse. They called my family home from abroad.”

Just days after giving birth to a premature baby, Carey had to undergo her biggest surgery yet; one that would either save or take her life. It was the hand of God, she was told by her doctor, that intervened and assisted the team to carry out the risky procedure.

Coming out of that surgery, the meaning of community took on a whole new meaning for her. While her doctors — Drs Sharmaine Mitchell, Adrian Mitchell, Patrick Roberts, Jason Toppin, and Ann Bridgewater — rallied around her to ensure that her recovery progressed normally in the following months, she had to trust her husband, relatives and friends to care for her newborn until she could leave the hospital.

Within two months she was able to go home, and she used the greater part of the following year to learn the ropes of the toughest, yet most rewarding project she had ever managed — parenting. Before long she was called to implement the National Child Diversion Programme, based on the policy that she had written as a consultant.

“So now we're looking at children in a different way,” she said, explaining how the programme works. “We're not penalising them, we're not giving them the stigma of the justice system. And also we're not putting them in a system that ultimately we find that the recidivism rates are high. We're going to treat them and deal with the issue as a community, and we will use restorative justice while we also have the diversion programme.”

The programme is still in its initial stages, but Carey is optimistic that it will have a lasting positive impact on the country's justice system. She is now convinced, more than ever, that she is on the path to fulfilling her ordained purpose.

“I think the challenges I faced with my surgery have taught me that you can't fight against what God's plan is for you,” she said serenely. “So knowing that I'm on this mission, and I'm serving Him, I know that I will continue to be led into the way that I'm supposed to be. So I am serving. I think that my life's journey is to serve and create a change for people, and for communities, and hopefully for Jamaica, you know, because this is my home.”

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