Wednesday 9th June, 2004

 

Obedience key to success

 
 
 
 
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Above:

Damian Weekes, at his Beetham Estate home says he is now headed for a career in international relations. Although he has lived in the ghetto practically all his life, he’s determined to be a success.

Top:

Just south along this street where Damian grew up, is the Beetham landfill—the place everybody calls “the dump.” Even today, Weekes says the people from the area continue to be ostracised simply because some people think they come from a wasteland.

Photos: Kerry Peters

BY KERRY PETERS

Damian Weekes grew up hearing: “Whey yuh doing outside? Get inside, pick up a book and read — read something.”

The source of the instruction was his father.

Weekes, 26, was born in John John, Laventille and raised in Beetham Gardens, the place he calls home to this day.

The fifth child of seven, he has lived there with three brothers, three sisters and both parents for most of his life.

It was while growing up in the Beetham, Weekes said, he was propelled, at a very young age, to reject the mental slavery of life in the ghetto.

From the time he was a student at Laventille Boys’ RC his father had been putting his philosophy of life into his head.

“He was able to bring us up in a way to keep us out of the ghetto — here,” Weekes said, pointing to his head.

“People right in front of us, right to the side of us, would not send their children to school — and not because they did not have the money to.”

Weekes said these parents didn’t seem to care about their children’s education. The elder Weekes himself would attest to the fact.

“One thing I was determined on was that my children get an education,” Victor Weekes said in a telephone interview.

He added that as far as he was concerned it was the mind that made the man.

Weekes said his father stood out and was sometimes rebuked because he was different. He would put on his best dress clothes to find work. Sometimes the big pay-off was collecting bottles, wherever he could find them, in the hope that the pittance he made from sales would send all the children to school.

So heavy was the financial burden of taking care of such a large family, Weekes recalls days when he used lime instead of deodorant in order to go to school smelling right. Food was scarce.

He spoke of times his brothers were ostracised simply because of where they lived.

But two of them are now studying petroleum engineering.

“I want to appeal to businesses and HR people, not to look at the address... once the resume is good, give the person a chance,” he said.

Weekes described an arena of rabid verbal and physical violence — at least on his block — in which every man, woman and child around him seemed to give and get their fair share of abuse.

“There was always some cuss-out,” he said.

How did he escape its clutches?

The story behind the great escape was initially his father’s insistence on keeping his children’s minds uncontaminated by the negative things and people among which they lived.

The next chapter of that story was Weekes’ respect for his father’s wishes. He said he simply decided against falling into the trap of violence, verbal or otherwise.

He said he maintained this focus in order to pass the Common Entrance exam. He dreamed of going to QRC, which he’d chosen because he had heard that “all these great men like Williams, Capildeo, Cipriani, James and Naipaul went there.”

Once enrolled there, he quickly stood out among his peers: he wore the proper uniform and his shoes, although cheap, were always polished.

He said of QRC: “It built up an internal fire and drive towards going on to greater and greater things. I felt it.”

He credits all his teachers with helping him get the five Grade Ones and three Grade Twos he earned in the 1994 CXC exams.

By the time he got to Sixth Form, his self-discipline earned him the promotion of a lifetime. Not only was he selected as head boy of the school, but he got three A-Level passes in French, General Paper and Spanish.

But nothing in his wildest imagination spelt C-U-B-A.

Weekes said he got an opportunity to study Spanish in Cuba, though not through his academic performance.

“I sang at QRC Scout show and someone enquired about me, that’s how Cuba came into the picture,” he said.

Once he got there, he said Cuba, like everything else, had its challenges. He added that when he looks back on those days he knows now it was God’s grace that saw him through.

Weekes spent six years in Cuba, where he did a Licentiate of Arts programme, majoring in Spanish. He explained that the Licenciado was slightly higher than a Bachelor’s Degree.

His said his plan now was to pursue a career in international relations, which would allow him to use his Spanish.

His father, meanwhile, said he was very pleased with Damian’s success. Weekes himself said he was glad he came through but was now looking to what the future held for him.

Asked how he overcame the obstacles that faced him, he had this to say: “The depression really comes from your mind, and once everybody adopts that mentality, that is when you really have a depressed area. It’s because of the people, not because of the houses or the trees or the streets.”

 

 

 

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