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Ja-born youth worker gets Brampton city award

Published:Saturday | March 25, 2023 | 12:25 AMSophia Findlay//Gleaner Writer
Abigail Hamilton (centre) accepts her certificate from Candace Walker (left) and Gwyneth Chapman (right), both from the city of Brampton, representing Mayor Patrick Brown.
Abigail Hamilton (centre) accepts her certificate from Candace Walker (left) and Gwyneth Chapman (right), both from the city of Brampton, representing Mayor Patrick Brown.

TORONTO:

Brampton’s Abigail Hamilton, founder, and executive director of ResQ Youth International, is not letting up on her mission to guide teens and young adults to a successful future through her non-profit community organisation which she started in March 2001, to provide support for at-risk youth.

The organisation held its 22nd anniversary celebration on Saturday, March 18, at Brampton’s city hall. It was themed: Breaking Down Barriers and Building Bridges, and saw several community advocates, law enforcers, politicians, attorneys, lawyers, educators, ResQ alumni, media, allies, and stakeholders, out to show their support.

Hamilton received the Brampton Black Elder Trailblazer 2023 Certificate of Recognition, which honoured her contribution to the black community. She was lauded for her perseverance, commitment, leadership, mentoring and vision. The award was presented by Candace Carter and Gwyneth Chapman, both from the city of Brampton, who represented Mayor Patrick Brown’s office.

Hamilton in turn encouraged donors and volunteers to help continue the organisation’s mission to stimulate, engage and connect families to programmes that are designed to teach practical and relevant life skills.

“Again, we ask, if you are here and you’d like to volunteer with us or to become a member of ResQ, or you’d like to donate, please do because so many of the programmes we run ends when the funding ends. Will you help?” she asked the audience. INFLUENCE TRANSFORMATION

CORE MISSION

The St Catherine, Jamaica, native reminded the gathering of the ResQ’s core mission to steer at risk youth to positive lifestyles, she said:

“I always tell them, whether they’re in prison or they’re in university, they’re still my children and I’ll fight for each one of them. It doesn’t matter who they are and what their story is, when they come to ResQ we do not judge them. We’ll just help them to find their way … those who are incarcerated or in facilities, all I want to give is hope so they don’t go back to their lifestyles,” she said.

In a telephone interview with The Gleaner, Hamilton reflected on her journey from Garden Hills, a district in St Catherine Jamaica, when she began teaching classes as a student, to attending Shortwood Teachers’ College in Kingston, York University in Canada, then as a Provincial Prosecutor in the Peel Region.

She recalled an incident in her career when a distressed, inappropriately dressed youth wanted to plead guilty to numerous traffic tickets without understanding the consequences. She advised him not to, he resisted until she was able to counsel with him for about five minutes.

A while later, she saw him in the line with a different, lighter countenance than when he first walked in, and before she got to him. He was waving the tickets at her saying he’s doing what she instructed.

The interchange and its outcome would further determine Hamilton’s path. Realising that she was able to influence that transformation, she mused that “if 5 minutes could make that difference in his attitude, what would 15 minutes do?”

“It seems like nobody ever believed in him and ever took the time out for him. If I could have more time with some of these kids maybe I could make a difference in their lives, so I pondered it. Then my sister called me two weeks after and said she had a dream where she saw a young man who said he’s looking for me and he can’t find me. She described him and believe me, her description fit the young man. I realised then that I must do something,” she recalls.

The seed was planted, and she had found her purpose.

“I was very concerned with the revolving door syndrome,” Hamilton remarked, “so I did something.”

She currently serves on the Toronto Police Services Board – Mental Health Sub-committee, the Peel Police Black Advisory Committee, Sheridan College – Professional Advisory Committee (PAC) and the Jamaica Canadian Association Board – Executive Committee.

Hamilton is also a recipient of numerous awards, including the Marcus Garvey Award for Advocacy and Peel Board of Education for her contribution to education.