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Jason Hayne

Jason Hayne, PhD.

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By Heidi Badenock

Jason Haynes, PhD, a 2008 national scholarship recipient, holds the position of deputy dean (Graduate Studies and Research) at the Faculty of Law, the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, and is an attorney-at-law.

Haynes knows success. Beneath that success, however, is a story that speaks of grit, determination, and immovable faith.

The story of a young man from a rural community in St. Vincent and the Grenadines with barely enough to live on is both gripping and encouraging. Today, shared with you, is part of his story.

 Who is Jason Haynes?

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“I am a Vincentian, originally from Largo Heights, now living in Calder, who is passionate about my country’s and the region’s development and social justice issues, and who endeavours to make my life and the conditions of those around me better.”

At 10 years old did you imagine your life to be what it is now?

“Never. Not in my wildest imagination. At 10 years old, I had already repeated classes. In fact, I moved between four primary schools because of various difficulties I was having at the time, including frequent asthma attacks, inability to pay rent, and no money to pay the bus or even to buy food. I wentto school maybe three days per week, if so many. I did the Common Entrance Exam at age 13, which is quite late by conventional standards. I had a really terrible foundation. To think that 20 years later I am where I am now, I think it is quite a marked achievement. It’s not something I anticipated, but I am very grateful and indebted to everyone (too many names to mention) who assisted me along the way.”

What would you say was the turning point in your life?

“… It only clicked for me when I was at A-Levels, when I was on a level playing field with everyone else, that I had the potential to do well. Before then, I felt like I could pass exams, and could get by, but only in a mediocre sense. At A-Levels, however, when I was in class with people who were naturally gifted, and who had much more resources and access to networks than I did, but I was nonetheless expected to perform at the same level as they did, I had to step up my game. Thanks to the now deceased Ms. Cheryl-Ann Smith and my other lecturers at SVGCC who insisted that it was not where I was from nor my then present circumstances that will determine my success that I was able to overcome one of the most challenging periods of my life. It was at that time that I really believed for the first time that success was possible, and that I could achieve anything that I put my mind to. Before then, I was happy with a mere pass as passing was my threshold for success. 

Would you say that your background influenced the (mediocrity) mindset?

I think so. I think that when you come from a poverty-stricken situation, you are happy with the very basic things. So, if I got three meals a day, that in and of itself was an accomplishment. Oftentimes, I didn’t even have three meals a day. Most times, it was one meal a day, if I was so lucky. I had become satisfied with just the basics. We had a saying at home when I was growing up: ‘feast today, famine tomorrow.’ For a very long time, up until I was 18, I was a recipient of Public Assistance, colloquially known as “Poor Relief”. When, at the end of the month, I went to collect my Public Assistance, and [I] had a hundred dollars in hand, that meant the world to me. I celebrated it. For the first time in the month, we were able to afford to buy chicken back, and it became a point of celebration [because] we knew that … within the next week, we were no longer going to have [it]. On the days that we didn’t have, we ate as many mangoes as we could, and were heavily dependent on neighbours, friends and relatives for assistance. So, life was very much about enjoying the few moments in between when things were working out. School was therefore an afterthought. 

I believe that my environment, in a good way, allowed me to value the basic things in life, but, in the same breath, it caused me to see life in a very narrow way. I didn’t know about scholarship opportunities, and I certainly didn’t know about university until I heard people speaking about it at SVGCC. Other basic things like a strong command of the English language, which others take for granted, did not come easily for me. In fact, outside of the classroom, no one around me spoke standard English. I had to, therefore, force myself to learn standard English by, for example, listening closely to cricket commentary, participating in extra-curricular activities, and reading the “Students’ Companion” multiple times. My world view was very limited because of my home environment.

What would you say has been the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in life?

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned over the years is that all things are possible with hard work, discipline, and faith. I think that that combination has really been the hallmark of my success. 

People see my success, the awards, the positions, the accolades, but they often ignore the process. They don’t see the long nights, multiple rejections, outright failures, low self-confidence and even bouts of depression. I am big on process, on working hard, on being committed. My faith and discipline have been the ingredients of my success. Interestingly, “success through faith and discipline” is the motto of the St. Martin’s Secondary School at which I completed my secondary education. 

5 replies on “Jason Haynes — a story of grit, determination, immovable faith (Pt 1)”

  1. Bernisa Roberts says:

    Jason (as he would prefer me to call him – instead of Dr. Haynes), is one of the most remarkable and humble person I know. His story serves as a testimony of what faith in God, committment, dedication and a positive mind set can do. May God continue to bless you and enlarge your territory.

  2. Passionate about Human Rights Abuses says:

    Also it must be noted that, he spent most of his childhood in instability, moving around, not being in a stable home environment creating a dysfunctional family unit…this can actually impede a child’s developmental milestones…This is where Liberty Lodge Training Centre for Boys was suppose to intervene….but this social Institution for some strange reason has become extinct or dormant…not being negative here or anything…but this young man literally went to University without any sort of intervention throughout his social challenges…and that is why we have a system in SVG that turned out to be dysfunctional….once you don’t have Institutions to help with coping mechanisms…after a while if can affect how these children function in the system throughout their adulthood….creating a vicious cycle of dysfunctional men, husbands and fathers who end up in Leadership positions. He is actually a product of a system that normalized poverty and made us even more impoverished in the 2st Century….

  3. Elsie Frederick says:

    I am proud of you Sir.
    You had some rough days, but you have learnt to appreciate this time. Blessings!

  4. Excellent story. I can relate too many of the writers experiences. I often told my kids that I carried mangoes in my pocket to town because that’s all I had to eat for lunch.
    They often criticize me when I eat left over food. I reminded them that every grain of rice was a important during my childhood. Everything in that plate was eaten, except the plate and spoon.
    Ironically many of my friends had the resources to go to school and live a reasonable life. Most of my poor mothers children had what were refer to as “middle class friends”. Her siblings’ children didn’t enjoy that privilege.
    It all came from my mother who didn’t go pass stage 2 while many of her friends made it to class 5 and 6. I am not sure how these privileged folks became her friends. I believe they tried to help her and even her children to participate in their lives.
    This is another chapter I have to add to her site as I look at the lives of people who have gone through the same cycle.
    Here is my mother’s story:

  5. I thank Kenton for posting this article and the few comments so far. My story can mirror this man’s somewhat, but my early years were not as bad. When I see so many Vincentians that have so little and notice that they seem not to see how or want to improve their life I often wonder if they do not really care to live better. I am shocked to see that so many WANT TO BE DEPENDENT ON OTHERS OR THE STATE! NOT TO MENTION THAT THE STATE SEEMS TO WANT TO BE DEPENDENT ON THE WORLD COMMUNITY. I seek to help so many Vincentians to help themselves but few actually are willing to do as this man has done.

    I always love those Vincentians that strive to be self-sustaining and independent even though they have grown-up in a culture unlike that of the USA, that I grew up in, that taught hard work and independence. (note: the USA in many places, is much different today) I do not blame the people in SVG, I blame the culture, and maybe all governments since independence that have never sought to change the culture. Then we have the “reparations”, perpetuating the attitude that others have to take care of us with free handouts and more dependence instead of ending the real legacy of colonialism: avoiding all work (laziness), back biting, fighting amongst ourselves, (crab barrel), blame the white man for everything, dependence on others to take care of us. This man, that became awake (not woke) is a true hero to me! I hope he can inspire other Vincentians. He got off his butt and did not waste his time complaining and blaming others. I hope he has not reached his “comfort zone” and will rise even higher and into a leadership position to change the real problems: the villain is the cultural that perpetuates the colonial mind-set legacy. The cry-baby reparations is only more proof of how dependent we are and blaming the British of today for what some of their ancestors did will only indicate that we ourselves want nothing to change. I wonder what this man thinks of reparations?

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