Emerging Civil Society Leader | Aspiring Social Worker
Hello, my name is Todd Haslam. I am an emerging civil society leader and aspiring social worker hailing from the beautiful parish of Portland, Jamaica. Additionally, I am a published author of a children's book titled "Clifford's Ultimate Lesson." My journey as a young civil society leader began in 2019 when I was elected President of the Optimist Club of West Portland at the age of 19. Guided by experienced club members, I transitioned into a more impactful role in my community's development.
In 2022-2023, I had the honor of serving as a National Youth Parliamentarian for Jamaica. As a youth parliamentarian, I actively contributed to political decision-making, lending my ideas, perspectives, talents, and energy to address the challenges faced by people of all ages in my country. I firmly believe that to bring about societal change, one must embody the change they wish to see. Over the past two years, I have dedicated myself to being that catalyst for change, both in my community and in empowering youth throughout Jamaica to tap into their inherent greatness.
In 2021, I was selected among 130 young civil society leaders from 89 countries to participate in the Community Engagement Exchange (CEE) Program, in partnership with the US Department of State. Despite my achievements, I come from a humble background, growing up in a single-parent household with my mother and younger sister. This upbringing inspired me to persevere and never give up until my dreams became a reality. I live by the mantra, "My dreams and aspirations may surpass my current reality, and I refuse to downsize my dreams to fit my reality." It is this unwavering pursuit of aiming beyond the stars that has opened doors for me to be among the stars. Most recently, I had the opportunity to work with the global non-profit organization, "Boy with a Ball," during a 3-month practicum in the United States. Drawing from the knowledge and expertise gained from this experience, I have launched a project called "Youth Arise." This initiative aims to empower a generation of dreamers by educating them about the limitless possibilities available to tap into their untapped potential and manifest greatness within themselves.
What were the biggest initial hurdles you faced and how did you overcome them?
One significant challenge I have faced in my life is the limitation imposed by financial constraints, which has hindered my pursuit of a bachelor's degree. This obstacle has held me back from fully contributing to youth development, as certain opportunities require the qualification of a degree. It can be disheartening to miss out on seizing these opportunities due to the lack of the necessary credentials.
However, I refuse to let these limitations define me or deter me from pursuing my dreams. Despite the financial hurdles, I remain resilient and determined. I have actively sought out opportunities that can bring me closer to realizing my philanthropic aspirations.
Through my unwavering perseverance, I have had the privilege of working alongside dynamic global networks of innovators and communities, addressing pressing 21st-century issues in diverse capacities. Moreover, I have been fortunate enough to represent my country in a capacity that is a rare experience for many individuals. Though the path may be challenging, I am committed to pushing forward and overcoming these obstacles. I am determined to find alternative avenues and opportunities that will enable me to make a meaningful impact on youth development and contribute to positive change in the world.
What advice would you offer to young individuals, both locally and internationally, who are embarking on their careers or pursuing their passions? One invaluable lesson I have learned in life is that greatness does not require a grand starting point. What truly matters is taking that first step towards your goals and aspirations. Regardless of your race, gender, or background, you have the potential to achieve greatness through persistence and discipline. I come from a small town with big dreams that extend far beyond my immediate reality.
It is through aligning myself with supportive individuals and engaging in enriching experiences that I have grown into the person I am today. It is remarkable to think that someone from a rural area in Jamaica, like myself, could represent their country in Washington DC alongside other young leaders from around the world.
Never set limits on yourself. If you stumble and fall, gather the strength to rise again and continue pursuing your dreams. Failure often holds valuable lessons that can shape your journey towards success. Even if you have been striving for many years without reaching your desired destination, do not give up. Many influential individuals in society have encountered multiple failures before attaining their aspirations.
Life is a canvas waiting to be painted according to your desires. While the beauty may not be immediately apparent, with persistence, you will witness the unfolding of a captivating masterpiece. Just as a broken crayon can still bring color, your limitations cannot impede your progress unless you allow them to.
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