Arlene Bailey could easily have directed her energy towards revenge and reprisal. On July 8, 2001, her son’s father was shot and killed by someone in her community. Her son, four at the time, witnessed the murder. “I was so alone and without friends,” says Bailey, who was 30 at the time.
“I was never sure of who the killer was. I never knew the truth so I couldn’t even grieve well.” This horrible event was a turning point for Bailey. “Reprisal could be easy, but it no make no sense to have revenge. Pain came with passing loss, but I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I now yearn to make positive change in the community,” she says.
Indeed, this is what Bailey has achieved. From a childhood spent bouncing around between rural and urban Jamaica, between different homes, Bailey is now a leader in the sometimes volatile community of Fletcher’s Land.
Bailey has now been a receptionist for the Department of Communications and Social Marketing with the Citizens Security and Justice Program since Nov. 2012. She hosts a weekly, hour-long program on ROOTS FM 96.1, lead the Fletcher’s Land Parenting Association for eight years and established the Arlene Bailey Foundation. The Foundation has already held an award ceremony, which recognized 36 people from Fletcher’s Land and distributed text books to students who could not afford them.
Bailey’s path to community leader started after the tragic event drove her to get involved. “Anything they tell mi fi do, I do, I just wanted to shut out the pain. It gave me a reason for being and filled the gap. People need to help people and make life better for the community,” she says.
Youth Opportunities Unlimited provided Bailey with both the means and the experience necessary to become a community leader. At the time, YOU was running several programs in Fletcher’s Land, including its core activity, mentoring, as well as life skills, public speaking and parenting training.
“I garnered so much self-esteem,” she says, and now describes herself as a “self-assigned community mobilizer.”
At the beginning of her journey, Bailey didn’t have the right clothes or hair and did not know how to conduct herself. “I was in a bad state,” she says. “This allow mi fi blossom. Someone with a troubled past tends to be arrogant, but I have been polished a lot.”
Through community development work, Bailey has now travelled the world (Canada, the U.S., Peru, Slovakia, Barbados, Antigua, Mexico, Brazil) and realized a dream of becoming a home-owner. She also subscribes to the notion that community development work, like projects run by YOU, can have a lasting impact. “As long as you want to do something, it can be done.”
Unfortunately, Fletcher’s Land is now experiencing an uptick in conflict (due to internal community disputes) and Bailey’s house was broken into in September of 2012, but she maintains her faith. “The devil has a way to find out how strong you are,” she says. “You have to lead by example and you have to surpass everything. I am committed to a life of service.”