Samantha’s saviour

Her life as a single mother is a hard one, Samantha says, but it is made easier with the help of Danville Birthwright. - Colin Hamilton/Freelance photographer

Her life as a single mother is a hard one, Samantha says, but it is made easier with the help of Danville Birthwright. - Colin Hamilton/Freelance photographer

For 68-year-old Kingstonian Danville Birthwright, 23-year-old Samantha Binns from Portmore is the one disciple out of dozens who has returned to say thanks.

In his many years on earth, the land surveyor and businessman has assisted many young Jamaicans to reach their full potential. Samantha, sent to school by Birthwright, is still on her way to her goal, but she is determined that the world should know about her mentor who, she says, is angelic – much more than a good man.

good relationship

Paulette Walker, Samantha’s mom, declares that daughter “could count on Birthwright for anything. He has been wonderful. I can’t even express it the way I want to. He has been more than a father for her. He has played that role in her life. Danville Birthwright loves young people with ambition.”

Although Samantha, now a data processor in Constant Spring, dropped out of high school when she became pregnant, Danville Birthwright was ready to answer her call again when the young woman decided that she wanted to go back to school

. When, later, she graduated from HEART accounting programme at the top of her class, she was delighted not because she came first, she said, but because she was able to show Birthwright that “I still had it in me to do well.”

Danville Birthwright, now a retired land surveyor, says that he helps young Jamaicans because he, first of all, was helped on his way to success by others who went out of their way to help him.

He met Samantha’s family, he said, many years ago when he worked at the Lands Department near North Street. It was a time, he said, when residents of surrounding lanes and government workers on North Street enjoyed a good relationship.

“We were all like one. There was no violence, no gun. You could walk anywhere down to the waterfront and have lunch. All around, everybody was one family.”

When Samantha’s mom and dad split and the young mother was in need of help, Danville says he was happy to help.

“Samantha had passed her Common Entrance Examination and was going to Alpha (Academy). Hardship came and I decided to help. I helped in every way. They did not pressure me. I made sure I did my Christian duty,” said the man who is proud of his membership in the Optimist Club of Kingston, and is also a Kiwanian, who in the past had been awarded Kiwanian for the Year for Youth.

The land surveyor provided Samantha with lunch money, books and paid her school fees.

Has your life been changed by the kindness of strangers? As our holiday gift to you, Outlook gives its readers the opportunity to say thanks to those who have transformed their lives with wonderful gifts and unstinting support. With ‘Angels Among Us’, we honour the sacrifice and kindness involved in giving to those in need all year round.

“Anything she wanted in relation to school I would get it.” Birthwright was always encouraging and always on time.

To encourage her to do well in high school, he had promised her a car for her 18th birthday. But this was not to be.

When Samantha was a fourth former at Kingston Technical High School, she became pregnant and for a short period her mentor did not speak with her. “He was very disappointed,” she recalls. Most of all, she regretted that she had lost her good reputation in Birthwright’s eyes.

When her son was born, Samantha called Birthwright to let him know that she wanted to attend the HEART academy to do accounting, computer studies, including Peachtree, an accounting programme. He was happy, but at the same time, Samantha recalls he became stricter. He would work out her needs to a T and she would not receive one cent more than what she needed.

“I could not tell him I needed money for pretty clothes or to go to parties. But anything to do with education he would be there for me.”

Nine months after her ‘angel’ answered yet another request, she won awards for most outstanding employee (work experience), most outstanding performance in accounting, and also collected her nine-month certificate.

“I was thrilled,” Samantha recalls. “I wanted to show him that I still had it in me.”

encouragement for schooling

Birthwright also sent her back to school to do CXCs, first mathematics and English, and then social studies and principles and business. She passed all four.

Today, Samantha looks forward to doing a diploma and then an MBA in management studies. “I like relating to people,” she states.

Her life as a single mother is a hard one, she says, but it is made easier with the help of Birthwright who, apparently, is never short on encouragement. “I owe it to him to see what he has done does not go down the drain,” Samantha states. She is planning, she says, to care for Birthwright in his old age. “I will be there for him as much as he was for me.”

Birthright told Outlook that he continued to help her after her son was born because, “I could not let her potential fall on stony ground. I made sure she got her books and not short of lunch money.

“It was not that I could afford it, but I had a farm in St Mary. The farm was flourishing.

“I brought in the orange after church on Sunday, took it to her mother and her mother gave it to Samantha’s uncle who went to East Queen Street early in morning, peel and sell. That was Samantha’s lunch money.

“I told her, ‘Samantha, give me the book list right after the holiday – not when school opens’. I made sure she got the books.”

disappointed with situation

Danville Birthwright states, “I was disappointed when Samantha got pregnant, but I am happy that she went back to school.

“I am so happy today that she called me. I am ill now and it is so beautiful because so many people I have done things for have forgotten.”

Birthwright states that he is proud of his work with youth, which he has been able to do through the Kiwanis and Optimists. But he does a lot on his own.

“I interview the youth and whatever I can do, I do it myself. The only way we can go up as a nation is to pull up others with us. It’s operation bootstrap. If you can’t get it now you will get it later, even on a ‘pinchy covy’ basis.”

Danville Birthwright admits “I was not born like this. It’s payback.” He expresses appreciation to a former personnel manager of The Gleaner, H.B. Duncker, who, when the company was situated on Harbour Street, gave him his first job as a messenger.

He is also grateful to FCB Sanguinnetti, a lawyer of Myers Fletcher and Gordon who, finding out that he wanted to become a land surveyor, sent him to learn the skill and also ensured that he was employed in the Lands Department.

Birthwright states, “I am very successful, though not rich.” But he could put back some of what he was given, to people like Samantha. But, he says, “She is the one ‘leper’ who came back to tell me thanks. I can’t tell her I am ill because she will cry.”

thanks to mentor

It is Samantha’s deepest wish to find a way to say thanks to her mentor. She says, “The love between us is like family,” adding that whenever she needed anything, all she had to do was to give him advance warning.

Patricia Birthwright states that her husband “is a good man, always helping wherever he can”. There are many examples of people whose lives he has turned around, she notes, one being a young man who is now in the army in the United States.

“He was a big influence on him and he has done this for many others. It is good what he has done for Samantha. That’s what we are here for, helping one another.”

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admin Posted by: admin December 8, 2008 at 8:59 am