Alrick and Serenidy
When Alrick was a child, her mother worked in the United States as a housekeeper, and would send money to her family back in Jamaica. Alrick was raised primarily by her grandmother, but enjoyed spending holidays and summer months in the United States. When her mother passed away when she was sixteen years old, she and her younger brother moved into her grandmother’s house, which was occupied by fifteen other people. Alrick finished high school and followed in her mother’s footsteps by moving to the United States in 2008.
“It is very difficult to find a job in Jamaica,” Alrick explained, “There are more opportunities in America, so I moved here, sent money home for my younger brother and family back in Jamaica, and saved to fund my younger brother’s journey to the United States.”
Alrick worked as a babysitter initially, and then became certified as a home health aide. In 2010 she gave birth to Serenidy, and was immediately engaged by SCO Family of Services in Brooklyn in Nurse Family Partnership, and soon after enrolled in ParentChild+
When Miss Merl, Alrick and Serenidy’s home visitor, first came to their home, Serenidy was very shy and had a very limited vocabulary. She was only comfortable with her mother and uncle, and ‘no’ was her favorite word.
“She was not a friendly child. At first Miss Merl would come to the house, and Serenidy would sit very close to me and did not speak a word, but would listen intently to Miss Merl” said Alrick, “Slowly Serenidy started inching closer and closer to Miss Merl. She was intrigued by the wonderful toys and books that she brought over, and after a few visits, she started to warm up and engage with Miss Merl and the materials.”
Serenidy loved when Miss Merl came to visit, and took a particular liking to “Pat the Bunny.” Alrick was amazed how quickly Serenidy learned the alphabet, shapes, colors, numbers, and nursery rhymes. “She soaked up Miss Merl’s lessons like a sponge!” explained Alrick, “I was so proud to watch my child grow and learn in such a short period of time.”
Alrick’s connection with Miss Merl was instant and extremely special. “I was alone in this country, but Merl treated me like her own child,” she explained, “She taught me all the things a mother would. She told me to be confident, she supported me, and she encouraged me when I was having bad days and doubting my parenting abilities.”
In Jamaican culture, children are to be obedient, quiet, and respectful of elders. Children typically play with children, and parents are authoritative figures and are expected to take care of and support their children.
“Miss Merl opened my eyes and showed me that it was okay to allow my child to lead, communicate and be independent,” Alrick says, “I learned that your child can also be your best friend.”
Alrick now finds that she is more flexible, patient and understanding. She’s become a better follower and a better listener: she lets Serenidy lead playtime and will let her make decisions and voice her opinion.
“Before ParentChild+ I would scold Serenidy for playing with the remote control, but I was encouraged to teach her, so I taught her how to use the remote, and now she can turn the TV on, change the channels, adjust the volume—all on her own!”
“I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in the program, and wish that all parents were taught how important it is to introduce literacy early in the home.”
Alrick notes that Serenidy’s vocabulary and maturity level are her biggest improvements since beginning the Program. Serenidy’s teacher says that she is one of the best students in her class. She has a longer attention span, is engaged with educational materials, and helps out other children in her class.
“I went to visit her in class one day and they were playing Animal Bingo,” said Alrick, “Serenidy was the only student in her class who sat quietly and listened to her teacher call out the animals. The other kids were jumping around and not paying attention, but Serenidy would look down at their bingo card and say ‘oh look, you have that animal!’ That was such a proud moment as a parent.”
ParentChild+ has motivated Alrick to apply to CUNY schools for nursing. Alrick hopes to advance her career and provide a better life for her and her daughter. She will be working, taking care of Serenidy, and attending school fulltime.
“At first I loved the Program just because of the free books and toys,” said Alrick, “But, the Program is so much more than that— the staff became my family and my support system, and I truly could not imagine raising my daughter without the support and encouragement they’ve provided and continue to provide.”