At age 16, Sandie Heron made the decision that she wanted to run away. She had just been returned to her mother’s house in Seaview Gardens, after living with her older sister in Portmore for two years. When asked why she wanted to leave so desperately, she responded, “I felt as if I would have died if I stayed.” Sandie came from what many would describe as a broken home. She spent much of her time moving between her mother, who was a single parent, and her father who lived with his wife and three children in the same community. At other times, she spent time with her grandmother in the country, when her mother was out of money or didn’t have a place to stay.
By age 13, Sandie had lived in up to ten different places. Instability was something that she grew accustomed to, and even thought it was normal. In spite of the constant uprooting, disruptions and poverty that she saw around her, Sandie dreamt of having a better life. She felt angry whenever she was told that she couldn’t do something because she was poor. Somehow, she felt that her life could become much more than the circumstances that she saw around her. She fantasied about going to university, getting a good job, buying a house and having a fridge with lots of food and becoming rich. Whenever she got a chance to catch the nightly news on CVM television, she would marvel at the TV Presenter who had a gap in her teeth just like her. She remembers how inspired she felt just looking at the woman on TV who looked so happy and successful.
Getting away from the inner-city community where her mother lived was a relief for her. Her older sister had agreed to take her after there had been some conflict in the community. The living situation at her sister’s house was much better, but after only two years, Sandie was told that she was going back to her mother. “I tried to be strong,” she recalls, “but I cried the entire journey back home. Returning home meant that I had to adjust all over again. Two years might seem like a short time, but the time away was a major shift in my development,” she shares.
When she returned, her mother was living in a small room that she was renting. She had to share that room with her as well as a younger sibling. There was hardly any money to buy food or go to school. Sandie spent much of her time internalising. She wondered why things had to be the way that they were, not only for her and her family but for others within her community. She felt herself sinking into depression. She feared having the dreams that she felt on the inside slipping away from her.
One day, she remembered a girl in the community who had fought and was taken away to live in a children’s home. It was the word ‘home’ that stood out for her. A home for children. In the afternoon, she walked to the police station and asked what she needed to do to get into a home. The officer on duty told her that she needed to be a bad child and her mother had to report that she was unable to “manage her.” She walked away feeling unqualified and disappointed. Days later, she decided to take matters into her own hands and she called a children’s home directly to ask if she could go there to live, but the woman who answered the very first call she made scolded her. “Why yu wah lef yu madda likkle gyal!!?” She screamed. Sandie had to return home with the books and clothes that she had brought to run away that day.
At the time, she was attending a high school in Kingston. One day while standing with a group of schoolmates she asked if she could live with one of them. One girl responded that she would ask her mother and her mother agreed some days later. Sandie moved once again to live in an unknown place, and fortunately she was able to stay with that family for 12 years. She completed high school and later went on to complete a Bachelor’s Degree at the University of the West Indies, working every weekend to have money for school. Before the age of 30, she moved into her own home.
Sandie recalls the challenges she faced when she moved to her friend’s community. In particular the criticisms from some people who thought that she was bad because she was a “ghetto girl.” She recognized that she would have to fight to rise above negative stereotypes. At age 25 she started attending a local church and there she began to learn about purpose. She heard that God created each person for a specific reason and that everyone had talents and gifting to be used for His glory. Her mind began to be transformed. She started to think that her life’s journey was not a mistake and that coming from a broken home did not have to define her life.
She started praying for divine leading and within a matter of months, she realized that the things that she loved to do; writing and shooting videos, were her natural talents and gifts. With this revelation, she enrolled at a Media institute for training in video production, editing and voice and speech training. After, she started a website and shared weekly inspirational articles as well as videos on her social media platforms. She always had a passion for sharing people’s stories and later produced and presented a radio program on Roots 96.1fm.
The continuous quest for living a life of purpose led Sandie to move from Jamaica to Japan, where she now lives and works as an Assistant Language Teacher. When she looks at her life’s journey she realizes that her path often required her to grow and blossom in places where she felt uncomfortable. Now living in a country where she is among the minority, she realizes how her past experiences helped her to develop the strength she needs to navigate unfamiliar places.
Sandie’s first book, Journey into the Unknown publishes on August 1st 2020. In her book, she shares her experience moving from Jamaica to Japan; everything that she had to let go of in order to walk into a new life, how she realized that it was God who was leading her and all the lessons that she learnt in the process. She wants to share her story to inspire people in Japan as well as people all over the world.
“It is not where you start, but where you end up” she says. Sandie wants all boys and girls who are from humble beginnings to know that where they come from does not have to define them. “They can rise above their circumstances and be all that God has created them to be,” she says.
You can follow her @sandieheron on Instagram and Sandie Heron on Facebook. You can order a copy of her book on Amazon or in Jamaica at York Pharmacy.