his picture above looks like it’s just a normal beautiful face. But it’s so much more, it’s a heart, a passion, a drive, a commitment and a dream come true. It’s a dream that started 6 years ago when Valrie Kim Johnson, age 17, left the shores of Jamaica for six months for California for an amputation procedure, sponsored by the Jamaica Awareness Association of California (JAAC) due to a crooked leg. She had to walk a total of 3 miles per day on crutches up and down the hill, back and forth to school.
Jamaica is known for giving up on the disabled. Kim was no longer a person without hope and she dug in deep. She wanted to be a registered nurse just like her mentor, Linda Coy. She voiced it and the members of Jamaica Awareness Association of California responded again, as they did the first time when Kim needed a prosthesis. This time more members injected personal funds to help her see her dream come true.
I am very proud of Kim” said Linda Coy. It’s great to serve as her mentor, but is greater to see Kim weather the storms, transition her life, and beat the odds that were stacked against her,” Linda said.
Kim is from a typically poor family and still spends most of the time with her grandmother. Today I spent a few minutes with Kim’s grandmother at her church, the Port Maria Parish Church. As I called her over to sit with me she recognized who I was and busted a grin. A most satisfying and thankful look appeared on her face as she sat and we stared at each other for about 60 seconds. No words needed. The silence was broken with a tight hug and cheerful laughter. “She did it,” I said. Grandma said, “yes, she did.”
We talked and throughout the 15 minutes of discussion and reminiscence, all grandma did was nodded her head and glowed in appreciation. Her entire face her star-lit eyes, her teeth, lips all smiled, repeatedly saying “I am proud of her.”
Kim’s Journey was not easy. She faced numerous challenges of funding, mobility, lodging, but she knew exactly the outcome she wanted from all this. She did not doubt herself and she kept plugging away.
The one thing I love and appreciate about Kim is her attitude. Since being outfitted with the prosthesis she is a new person; confident, talkative, bouncy, witty. Her entire life changed. Knowing now that she has an opportunity just like anyone, Kim is a popular face on Social media, highlighting her achievements with her new-found life and also selfies jazzing her new leg. Kim has a drive that is unlike anyone. The likelihood of her becoming a statistic in Jamaica without her surgery in California was high, however, given the Kim, we have come to know; maybe not.
Kim received a second-class honors. She showed off her diploma to us; Sharon Small, Claudette Hecker, two of her benefactors from the start of it all, and who are here to attend Kim’s graduation on November 2, 2019.
“Second Class Honors allows me to pursue my Masters in Science and I am going for it next. I will work and put myself through graduate school” Valrie Kim Johnson remarked.
Sharon Small another member of JAAC and supporter of Kim, remarked “I am so very proud of Kim. Her determination and sense of purpose is very admirable. An inspiration to all who have challenges in life”
Kim is a perfect model of someone who changed her life with a little help. Sometimes all we need is a little kick-start. The sky is the limit for you Kim! You have your wings. Go soar and discover. One love!
Kim would like to show her love, thanks and appreciation for the following individuals:
Linda Coy, Sharon Small, Leo Gilling, Yasmin Facey, Jackie Small, Charmaine Hecker, Claudette Coleman, uncle Danny Vivene Irvin, and aunty Cedil, Claudette Hylton, Dr. Tigner Weekes, Dr. Una Morris and the entire Jamaica Awareness Association of California family.