Saturday 31 October, 2020

Your Hero: Corporal Andrew Williams — the cop who can't stop giving

Corporal Andrew Williams

Corporal Andrew Williams

By Ansray Thomas

If you’re driving through Jamaica and notice a young man giving packages of food items to the less fortunate or paying for the groceries of shoppers, it’s probably Corporal Andrew Williams embarking on his random acts of kindness aimed at inspiring others to make Jamaica a much kinder and safer place.

It is therefore no surprise that service before self is etched in the very fabric that makes this 32-year-old Spanish Town resident the man he is today.

“What pushes me a lot too is I always tell myself that ‘I don't want to die on empty’. Too many persons go to the graveyard with wonderful ideas; brilliant world changing ideas, but because they hold it inside they go to the grave with it. I don't want to die on empty; everything I want to do to help people, I let it out. I use my life fully as a gift from God,” Williams said in an interview with Loop News.

And surely, the police officer, who is stationed at the Community Safety and Security Branch (CSSB), has been using that gift from God to pursue positive efforts, viewed by some as modern day community heroism.

Once a month, for example, Williams disclosed that he travels to various parishes for one such act of kindness.

“Each month from my salary, I would go to a supermarket and try to pay for person’s groceries in part or in full, asking them only… to be kind to someone else,” he explained.

In detailing his methods of selecting persons for assistance with grocery items, Williams said he normally targets persons who are not able to afford everything.

These children are all smiles as they pose with their toys received from Corporal Andrew Williams' Santa Bag. 

“I remember this one lady... She was putting some things back and I said, ‘You know what, let me get these items for you’. The things that she was putting back was for herself, and she was buying things for someone who didn't have it, and it touched me to know that you are putting back things for yourself but you are still buying something for somebody else,” he explained.

“So I paid for her groceries, and every single time she messages me, ‘God bless you’, or ‘Keep faith’. So things like that really keep me going,” he further added.

These acts of charity form part of Williams’ non-profit organization, Positive Initiative, which was founded in 2012 with the mantra, ‘inspiring hope through kindness.’

The corporal shared one of the acts of kindness bestowed on him that spurred him to become even kinder.

“I remember the first act of kindness being extended to me in high school by Yvette Campbell, my best friend's mother. My belt was torn and he (my best friend) brought the news to his mother and she sent a $1,000 for me, and you know as a youngster that's a lot of money to me. 

“I remember at the time just buying a new belt, books and pens, and just invested in brain power. So after that I just started to be kinder to the persons in secondary school (at Eltham High School in Spanish Town),” he shared.

Positive Initiative would later be founded by Williams after a conversation with uncle, Derrick Rochester, and his friend, Derval Randal.

This little girl seen here trying to grab a toy from Corporal Andrew Williams' Santa Bag. He does this initiative during Christmas at supermarkets in Spanish Town.

The police officer elaborated that “I sparked the conversation (about) what do we truly do with our time. We play football, we sit here and talk about everything else, but how do we actually start helping persons. And that conversation gave me the nickname 'Positive'… and that’s how I started Positive Initiative.”

 One of his first projects under Positive Initiative was in 2014, with an award ceremony for students who had passed their Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), now Primary Exit Profile (PEP), in Cooreville Gardens in Kingston. They received plaques and certificates. 

That project remains one of his most memorable efforts under the Positive Initiative banner.

“I will always go back to the first award ceremony in 2014. I think the reason I go back to it is because now I can see the impact. Given that it has been years, I see the recipients and they would come up to me and say, ‘I remember when you did this for me and I am happy that from that tender stage you invested in my life’,” he explained, adding that “I see how positivity impacted their lives throughout high school and what they are doing now.” 

Other initiatives throughout the years followed under Williams’ Positive Initiative charity organisation.

“I remember going on what I call the ‘Attitude of Gratitude Tour’. It was simply going back to my roots and gifting persons with a basket. These are persons who would have influenced my life from a younger stage to the man that I am, because I think it is important that no matter where you are in life, you should remember exactly where you are coming from,” he shared.

This tour saw him visiting his past basic school, high school and training school, to name a few.

A blind senior citizen residing in Cooreville Gardens in Kingston receiving a care package from Williams.

Then there was the ‘Act of Kindness Tour’, where several persons from various parishes were presented with a basket, which consisted of, among other things, food items.

“… once you see an act of kindness, you gift somebody with a basket simply for being kind. The aim of that was going right across the island and have that done so that persons could see that I don't need to come from your parish to be kind to you,” Williams noted, adding that the tour was sponsored by Scott's Variety Gift Shop and Lasco.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tour has been halted, but that has not derailed Williams’ efforts of continuing to spread love and kindness.

“Given the (corona)virus pandemic, I actually have things in my car now. So, say I am driving by at a stoplight and I see somebody who I think is needy, I would just pull up wherever they are and go in the back of the car. Normally I have mackerel, baked beans and other food items there, and I would just do a quick package for them,” Williams detailed.

“I don't think because the pandemic is here it should stop my efforts. It's just a matter of adopting. So I have adopted by doing that on a needs basis. I now do food items. It's more appreciated because of the pandemic,” he continued.

Williams, who spent some of his childhood being raised in St Mary, revealed too that every year at Christmas time in Spanish Town, he would take his “Santa Bag” and visit several supermarkets or streets in the town and have the children grab toys from it. He would be attired in his police uniform when embarking on that effort.

When asked what the feedback was like for his acts of charity and overall kindness, Williams said, “I normally get the responses, 'If I'm a real police?', or I have had persons who have been emotional and cried, and I have persons who are just grateful. 

Donations of supplies being made by Corporal Andrew Williams during the COVID-19 pandemic to the Strathmore Gardens Children's Home in Spanish Town, St Catherine.

“I tell them (the people) all the time that there are a lot of police officers out there doing well. It's just not being highlighted, but all we ask you as an individual is to let our jobs be easier; just be kind to somebody else and we will have a kinder and safer Jamaica,” he posited.

Meanwhile, under Positive Initiative too, there is also a mentorship aspect.

Williams, who serves as the assistant Island Coordinator for the Police Youth Club Movement, said under his mentorship, he tries to change the mindset of young individuals to one of positivity.

He said: “What we have found too is that giving you money will assist a specific need but trying to change your mindset can give you all the money in the world.

“So what we try to do is to get you to that mindset of positivity that it is understandable that things will come your way that will happen and you will have to make a decision. You can either be a part of the problem or the situation I always tell them.

“So we try to get them (young people) to understand right from wrong, their role in society, their role in this world as a bigger picture versus just seeing themselves as a student in a high school (for example),” he stressed.  

With access to the police youth club, Williams noted that some of those club members are under his mentorship, and given the COVID-19 pandemic, WhatsApp is mostly utilised to communicate with them.

A care package being presented to a citizen living in Portmore St Catherine by Williams.

Additionally, he shared that individuals are often paired together to better provide support to each other.

“Sometimes one person in Westmoreland is having a problem and a person in Portland is having the same problem. Sometimes it's better when you pair them and they grow together; you know let's work on this together and see how it goes. So you're not isolated and think that you are the only person in Jamaica with this problem,” he explained.

Two young persons, in interviews with Loop News, referred to Williams as a motivational force in their lives.

Shyane Reid, a 20-year-old basic school teacher from Clarendon, said Williams has been her mentor for the past four years.  

“Mr (Andrew) Williams is actually my mentor. He has helped me a lot in building my self-confidence and he has helped me to become a leader because I was pretty shy a few years ago before I met him. I did not speak a lot. Normally when persons call on me to do presentations, I chickened out and I wouldn't go. But since being under his mentorship, I stepped out of my comfort zone and I am going out representing,” she shared.

Reid further informed that due to Williams’ mentorship too, she has become a member of both the Clarendon Police Youth Club Council and the Clarendon Parish Youth Council.

She also considers Williams a community hero, because of his helpful persona.

Andrew Williams' daughter, Aliyah, who he says is his biggest motivation. 

“He has helped a lot of young people throughout the police youth club movement and they look up to him for support.  He (also) gives extremely good advice. It doesn't matter who you are as long as you are in help, he is there to assist you,” she explained.

Daniel Wallen, an assistant teacher currently enrolled at HEART /NSTA Trust where she is studying Early Childhood Education, described the police corporal as a super hero.

The 19-year-old Portland resident further shared that she was not sure of what career path to take, but Williams spoke with her and provided guidance.

“He (Williams) has been a great impact. He is the foundation of what I am achieving, and I must say I lift my cap to Mr Williams because he is a super hero. He is a great person, and I hope other persons may see him and use him as an example and help to build a better Jamaica…” she commented.

Despite the accolades being bestowed on him, Williams has never considered himself as a community hero.

“I never looked at myself as a hero. Just somebody who loves doing what I do... I just think that if we did nothing it’s simply that we are betraying or going against everything our heroes fought for. It was rough for them and they fought; that's why we call them heroes. 

“And then it is almost as though where they (our National Heroes) left off, we're saying let's leave it there; we don't need to continue. The fight still needs to continue. We need more persons to pick up where our heroes left off,” he argued.

In encouraging other persons to give back, Williams said individuals should remember where they are coming from. 

“I always paint the picture to persons that there is someone like you in primary school. The same problems that you went through, there is somebody else going through the very same problem. I think that the platforms that you are given now it’s a gift from God, and it is an opportunity for you to be kind to the younger version of yourself,” he posited.

 “…I tell the mentees as well, you have to influence the persons around you positively, because if you don't somebody else will and maybe their influence is straight negativity and it may come back around to you,” the corporal continued.

Williams alluded that his daughter, Aliyah, has strengthened his Positive Initiative campaign.

“When it (Positive Initiative) started it was me just saying ‘what can we do to be kind?’ You know persons were kind to me so let me be kind. When she was born on February 24, 2018, I realised I had to leave a legacy for this young lady. It had to be a situation that when she grows up and asks the question, ‘Daddy what did you do to help this world’. I can say, ‘Aliyah I was kind.’ 

“So with that, there is nothing that can stop me,” the policeman assured.

* Loop News is honouring unsung community heroes in the lead up to National Heroes Day. Do you have a heroic figure in your community that you believe deserves to be featured in this series? If you do, send a testimonial about your community hero to julian@trend.media.

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