Giving Back Paying Forward
Over the past few weeks, a few great minds and kindred spirits came together to inspire selfless service to our community. Because of them, the Design Anguilla Challenge to showcase worthy causes was born—Giving Back, Paying Forward. In particular, we raise awareness for Kumakie Parris, a university student who needs funding assistance.
His story starts like that of so many other troubled young men – Kumakie Parris grew up without his father. His mother, Janet Parris, did double duty to provide for him and his siblings. Sixteen years ago, a young, wayward Kumakie saw his life spiral into all the wrong things.
“I wanted to fit in with everybody else,” he recalls. This led him into the underworld of drugs and gangs.
It seemed unlikely that he would turn his life around, but fate intervened. “My daughter ignited change in 2004. I wanted to become the father that I never had to my daughter. The thought of losing my family—or them losing me—made me change.”
Nearly a decade later, he is a family man, a born-again Christian and youth mentor studying psychology at Argosy University in Tampa, Florida.
“I have made sacrifices…to make me a better man, and to make me be able to do something,” he said.
Sacrifice is part and parcel of his pursuit of an education—one filled with faith and determination to succeed. Kumakie, along with his wife and their two young children now live in a temporarily unfurnished apartment. His children are enrolled in school and they live a humble, content life. With the cost of living added to their adapting to the move, they don’t have the normal comforts of home, yet the Parris family is determined to have a go at living in another country, far from their extended family and friends.
He’s adamant: “I cannot fail, and I will not fail,” all because he strongly believes this education is necessary for him to return and work more effectively with local youths.
His determination is nothing new: he had already put himself through culinary school, trained with chefs and started a business.
Unknowingly, Kumakie has paid it forward by giving to others. He’s mentored incarcerated young men, sharing his culinary skills and connecting with them by telling his own story as a “Youthman” who sold drugs and was involved in gangs.
It has worked, as he points out, “The fellows are interested, because you are telling them a real story.”
He has given motivational talks to students at the Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School, where he was formerly a student, and taught cooking classes to students at Campus C. He’s also volunteered at the Zenaida Haven Rehabilitation (Juvenile Care) Centre, but he insists that we tell you it was “not much.”
Even now, as he’s abroad studying, Kumakie is working with a local sponsor to start a non-profit organisation to raise funds for micro-projects that train youths in employable and entrepreneurial skills.
His volunteer work and accomplishments show that he has changed his life, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Rev. Lindsay K. Richardson, Correctional Services Counsellor at Her Majesty’s Prison, is intrigued. “I have heard him speak of his story on the radio, and I’m inspired to see what he is doing with his life,” he said.
Kumakie is committed to giving back to the Anguilla community, has taken steps to get involved, and has developed his own action plans. His ambitions for himself are a solution to the problems that young men face in Anguilla. What better way to get through to troubled youths than to have someone who used to be one of them there to counsel them, listen to their stories, and give them doable alternatives for their lives?
An Interview with Kumakie Parris
Your father was absent during your childhood years. Did you reconnect with him?
I reconnected with my father [Raymond Vanterpool] in 2003; grew up and had to forgive him. Now I take care of my father, his wife and my younger brother.
Any specific individuals who influenced you to change your life?
Chef Daniel Orr and Chef Allen, Vida (Christine) Lloyd-Richardson encouraged me; Anita Ruan, Pastor Dexter Welcome, my mother and my wife.
Any other persons you would like to mention, who have helped you to work towards achieving your educational goals?
Mitch Lake (Anguilla Tennis Academy) has been trying to help with the scholarship. Bonnie Bloom (Ani Villas) – she has helped raise funds. Ken Evoy is pushing to do his best.
Anything else to share?
To eradicate a problem you can’t just do something once in a blue moon. The community needs to do more.
[On gang violence] I’ve talked to the guys (in gangs). Most of them inherit gang violence. They don’t know why they are getting involved.
[On parents finding children with guns] A parent found a gun under the bed in a child’s room and went to the police. Another parent found a gun and told the child to get out of the house. That (the latter) was not the way to respond.
[On preparing the youths for the future] We need to train the youths in skills that they can use to earn a living. Not everyone can work in the tourism industry, or in an office.
He also suggested giving a fisherman $500 to carry two young persons to see what it is like to make a living as a fisher. Even if a youth wants to be a chef, he will then know where the fish come from and the hard work it takes to catch what he wants to cook.
A Government of Anguilla clinical psychology scholarship provides Kumakie with US$2,500 every six months, which is not enough to cover tuition and school fees. You can join the challenge to help Kumakie by donating funds for his education via his website, www.kumakie.ai,
The Design Anguilla Challenge team comprises the magazine’s publisher/editor, its writers, and citizens from a number of nations. We are a team with a kind-hearted mission: to help our nation’s people. In each issue of this magazine, we will feature a story of an individual or organisation in the Anguilla community who deserves some help to achieve a pre-determined goal.
The Anguilla Progressive Association of New York (APANY) can accept tax-deductible donations through its website, www.apa-ny.org from US taxpayers for the benefit of any not-for-profit organisation in Anguilla. Any donations received less necessary administrative fees and expenses will be sent directly to the organisation of your choice.