New group aims to help single-parent families
A handful of Fox Hill residents gathered at the Fox Hill Community Centre Friday night to share their experience of being single parents at the launch of the Single Parents Enhancing Attaining and Knowing (SPEAK) foundation. Although the auditorium crowd was sparse, the heartfelt stories and sobs filled the room.
Kenneth Symonette, an officer of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) and founder of SPEAK, said he has no children but was moved to start the foundation after 15 years of working with kids from single-parent homes.
He told a story of a mother who one night brought her three children into the police station. Symonette said that while interviewing the woman’s son, he was crushed by two questions the nine-year-old asked.
“When I sat down with Michael privately to find out why he was [behaving] the way he was [behaving], why he was doing what he was doing, before I even got to get into it, Michael asked me a poignant question,” Symonette said.
“A very serious question for a young boy.
“Michael asked me why nobody loved him.
“That was a shot to my gut.
“It was a shot to my gut.
“Before I got a chance to react to that or say anything, Michael gave me another shot.
“Michael told me that he wishes he was [never] born…”
Symonette said upon asking the nine-year-old why he held these feelings, he responded that his father had left him and his mother and that she was always angry with him.
SPEAK’s mission, according to Symonette, is to assist 10 single-parent families every month. But he said that he hopes to have helped the first 100 by March of next year.
Lashan Mackey, 30, a single parent of three boys – 13,10 and six – said her biggest challenge yet as a single mom was when her eldest son was being bullied at school.
Mackey said she left school at age 16 to work but got pregnant shortly after. The father of the child, she said, was absent the entire pregnancy and has been missing since.
“One thing I know [is] that I never want my sons to go through whatever I went through as a child,” Mackey said.
“At some point, my mother, I wouldn’t say she neglected me but she had her kids at a young age too and she was also a single parent so she didn’t [have] too much to teach us.
“We ended up learning on our own.”
Asked if she feels that her sons lack a father figure, Mackey said, “I wouldn’t say they’re really lacking but they don’t have it like how they should have a daddy around.
“They don’t have that; it’s more mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy.
“PTA meetings, when they’re sick, graduation [and] things like that, I’m always there.”
Mackey’s advice to single parents is to be unafraid of reaching out for help.
“I had my time of being suicidal; actually, thinking about committing suicide,” she said.
“It isn’t the best thing to do.
“With me, I’ve always been independent from I was a young girl.
“Like I said, I dropped out of school just to work.
“…Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and not be afraid to ask or reach out to people because everybody needs somebody.”
Aqila Knowles, 44, mother of two daughters, 26 and 22, and one son, three, said she was a few weeks pregnant when she walked across the stage at graduation at 18.
She said her first child’s father disappeared after a year. Knowles said the biggest struggle she encountered as a single parent was the reality of having to do everything on her own. She said she made it through by taking it one day at a time.
“The only thing I could tell a single parent to do is to take it one day at a time,” Knowles said.
“Back then I had so many emotions and I went through so many things and I had so many challenges but I actually had to make up in my mind that I was going to become grounded in a church.
“…I also would like to tell single parents that the time actually goes and the children actually do grow up and so you have to hope for the future.”
Knowles said the most important thing she did for herself as a single parent was further her education.
“I think when I got back in school, that also gave me a new outlook on life because education is so important,” she said.
“It opens your eyes to see more.
“Once you become educated, you are more exposed.
“You become much more knowledgeable.
“… I transformed my life [when] I decided that I was going back to college because I was tired of working menial jobs.
“That was when my life took a more positive turn.”
Knowles added that because of her education, she became a better person and was able to raise better children. She said she started with the goal of attaining an associate’s degree and eventually worked her way to a doctoral degree. Today, she owns multiple businesses.