Jacquie Brown, Senior Manager, Kinark, & Youth Programme Advisor, CUSO-VSO

At the beginning of the year, we all take stock of our lives and think of ways to change for the better. We look at how far we’ve come and start thinking about where we’d like to go. To salute the season of resolution-making and restock-taking, we’re highlighting women with careers that give back. Whether they’re helping out overseas or right here at home, for the next few weeks we’ll be celebrating women giving back to their communities.

Jacquie Brown, MES, RSW has been a senior manager at Kinark Child and Family Services for 20 years. She is currently taking a one year leave of absence to volunteer with CUSO-VSO as a Youth Programme Advisor to Dispute Resolution Foundation, an NGO in Jamaica. Her passion is to work to improve the situation for children, youth and families who are struggling with difficulties in their lives.

At Dispute Resolution Foundation her job entails working within the organisation to develop programmes that have positive outcomes for children, youth and families as well as working with Ministries and other services to develop partnerships to improve the services in schools and in communities. She is fortunate enough to work with people from high-level ministry personnel to children who need support and counselling so they can successfully return to school.

What does a typical Thursday look like for you, starting from when you wake up – to heading to bed?
Waking up happens around 5:30am but in the warmth of Jamaica, with the sun coming up, it is quite painless! Blue Mountain coffee from a recently purchased espresso machine and my day has started: check emails, news and turn on the water heater. A flurry of getting organised and I am off to the bus stop to head to work in Downtown Kingston. 2 buses and a 25 minute walk and I am in my office, comfortably nestled between the Remand Centre and the Rehabilitation Centre on Camp Road! At 8am the students start sauntering in, all uniformed and ready to work through why they are here and not in school. My first task is to meet with some and ensure all are settled into the Peace Centre. They are students who have been suspended, usually for fighting, and they bring with them lives that are hard to hear about.

Having helped settle the students I work on the assessment and recommendations I am developing to stabilise and standardise the youth programme, meet with the CEO, the Youth Peace Facilitators and the Youth Programme Manager. Lunch is with colleagues at one of our desks. In the afternoon the manager and I may head off to meet with Ministry of Education staff, UNICEF staff or other agencies with whom we need to develop partnerships. At the end of the work day, usually around 5pm, I walk up to New Kingston (about 30 minutes) and as the sun sets go for a quick swim in a local hotel pool. All is good with the world. After a relaxing interlude, and connecting with friends, I will take the 2 bus-ride journey home and change into shorts and t-shirt to finish off a little work, catch up on emails and listen to some music. The day usually ends by 12:30 and sometimes there is water from the tap to clean my teeth!

What was your first job out of school?
Well, it depends how you define job! After leaving school my first job was teaching math and science for a year at Njase School for Girls in Choma, Zambia. That was with Volunteer Service Overseas so if salary defines job this may not count, but from an experience perspective it really counted!

What are the 3 skills you require most to do your job well?

1) Listening non-judgementally, to clients, co-workers and partners.

2) Being organised, I may be juggling lots of different activities and need to keep them all straight

3) Being able to integrate lots and lots of information and reflect it back with clarity

What do you love most about your career?
I get to connect with so many different people from high ranking professionals to little children in day care. I get to be able to contribute to and learn from so many situations and they are all to do with improving things for people!

Do you have any warnings?
Remember that if you change the world for the better for one person, you have achieved a great deal! It is easy to lose sight of that when surrounded by difficult situations and people who are struggling and you can’t make the world perfect.

If you could try a different career on for a year, what would it be?
An international reporter on children. I would love to be able to travel and raise awareness about the situation for children across the world.

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