The Frances Bodden Home has opened its doors to many girls since the home was built in the mid 1980s. It offers places to girls aged 11 to 17 who are at risk.
Two former residents of the home, who have grown up to be businesswomen, look back at their days at the institution and what it taught them.
Jizana Brown, nee Sandoval, admits she had a rocky start on life, spending much of her teenage years in and out of institutions and also spending some time in jail as a juvenile offender.
Her mother died when she was eight years old and she says she went from home to home of relatives before being admitted to the Frances Bodden Home for Girls when she was 12.
Now a 22-year-old businesswoman who runs Fusion Construction with her husband, Brown found herself in a position to help out the home recently when her company was involved in the repair of the building that was temporarily closed for two years after it was badly damaged in a fire.
“The first time I went to Frances Bodden, I missed home a lot. Everything was different. I really just wanted to go home, I didn’t want to be there,” she recalls.
“I was there a lot longer than I thought. The first time I went, it was for a period of about four weeks. Then I ran away. They caught me and took me back to Frances Bodden and I was there about three months,” she says.
After that, she was sent to the Marine Institute (formerly the Bonaventure Boys Home), where boys and girls were trained in skills like mechanics and computers. “It was like a boot camp,” she says.
“I ran away again and was then sent back to Frances Bodden. Then I was sent to an institution – a place of safety – for other girls who were a bit more… wild. But, I worked my way back home,” she remembers.
Despite this chequered route to stability, Sandoval has a philosophical outlook on her teenage years. “Things happen for a reason,” she says.
“Never in a million years did I think I’d see myself back there, but this time with my company putting the finishing touches on the home after the fire,” she says. “It’s a lot nicer now than when I was there. I told the girls there to count their blessings,” she says.
As well as running Fusion Construction, at which she does the paperwork, deals with immigration and human resources issues and contracts, Brown also plans to return to school in September to continue her education on hospitality.
She says she remembers giving the staff at the home a hard time when she was there, but she is now often cited by the home and the Cays Foundation as one of their success stories. “I want other girls to know that things can turn out alright. I’ve been very lucky and fortunate, I have my own home and my own business,” she says.
“I look back at my time at Frances Bodden as something good. I learned a lot from it. I learned from my mistakes also. What I learned then I use today in my day-to-day life,” she adds.
Casandra Morris, nee Hibbert, set up Diamond Events Management Group in 2008, with the motto “With Passion We Serve”. The company providing marketing and events management service for groups or individuals.
She was 10 years old when she and her sister Carolette went to Frances Bodden.
She remembers being scared and frustrated about being moved again to another home.
“My first incident was me going through the door and one of the girls saying to me “Yes! Finally I have someone that will pick up for me and be on my side” – not a very great introduction and it made me wary. At that time, it seems that there was so much fighting and squabbling at the home, I requested for my sister and I to move – and thankfully we were,” she says.
But before they were moved to a foster home, they spent two months at Frances Bodden.
“I had been in different foster homes from the age of six. Frances Bodden did not provide fond memories for me due to my short stay,” Morris recalls.
However, Frances Bodden was her last stop before moving to a foster home she has much fonder memories of.
She and her sister moved to Mary Ebanks’ home in West Bay. “Mama Mary, as she is affectionately called, taught us how to be women a society would be proud of. She taught us how to be strong, encouraging Christian values in our life, moral values… After living a young life of being told we were nothing, she spent years showing us that we were important and of value,” she says.
Of Frances Bodden Home, she says: “I remember the staff as being pleasant but I also remember years later realising that it really wasn’t a home – not like Mama Mary’s home where we felt welcomed by her entire family and even up today we still consider them family. One of the boys that went through the system with us and lived at Mama Mary’s at the time, we also call him brother and we spend lots of time together.”
She says she learned much from her days in foster care including: “No matter who you come from, who your family is, that does not dictate who you are! You can be different, you can be somebody – don’t let anyone tell you different.”
Morris says she also learned to trust and believe in herself. “With God as your guide, all things are possible.”
Another important lesson she took from her teenage days is: “Family can be anyone. It does not have to be biological… but surround yourself with positive people that will help build your environment and keep them close.”
She has three messages for girls going through Frances Bodden, other institutions or foster homes: Don’t be so quick to leave, cherish your youth. Learn as much as you can in your safe environment, the home now provides so much great learning opportunities, so take advantage of them; and “build a deeper relationship with God who is your friend, comforter, healer, and Father who will always be there for you in times of joy, struggle and hardships. Leave it to Him and just let God do the work.”
She also urges parents to consider becoming foster parents. “It is so rewarding and our young people need strong and caring individuals who love children,” she says.