Hazel King surrounded by the children she takes care of in an after-school programme called The Good News Club, which she runs from her home. (Picture by Lennox Devonish.)
“But Jesus said, suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:14 King James Version (KJV)
Hazel King’s love for children has no bounds. From her Pine Plantation Road home, she runs an after-school programme, called The Good News Club, which comprises over 20 children. There, she teaches them memory verses, tells them Bible stories and teaches them art and craft.
At Easter, she puts on an Easter bonnet parade competition for the members of the club and other interested children. During summer, she also organises a Bible programme called Shine The Light Summer Camp, which attracts over 50 children
Biologically, King has two children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren but to her, every child who has experienced her care is considered to be her very own even those who belonged to her foster care programme, which began in 1996 and ended a few years ago.
During an interview with EASY magazine, King said the ability to teach and love and the art of mothering were gifts bestowed upon her from God and it was her life’s passion to share them with as many children as possible.
King, affectionately known as Granny to the children and adults around her, does not receive monetary rewards for her work and she wouldn’t have it any other way. As a child of God, her fulfilment comes from seeing the progress and development of every child under her wings, making lasting memories, teaching them about the Bible and having a positive impact on them.
“This is not me,” she said. “This is the spirit of God and when He put you to do something, you should do it. When He says it is sufficient time for me to stop, I will stop.
“Doing this makes me feel good. As I don’t see one of my children I get the nerves and does have to call and ask why I am not seeing so and so . . . . I can’t do without them.”
As the adage goes, age is just a number and Granny, who will celebrate her 78th birthday on Thursday, May 24, is nothing like the typical woman her age. Granny is unbelievably energetic and has a good memory. She exudes a sense of warmth, friendship and compassion for others but when she gives you the look and says, “Behave” or “Stop that” you had better obey – or else.
Though she has dedicated most of her time to childcare services, King also works with adults. She is trained in pastoral services, and on the last Saturday of each month she visits the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and goes around to different wards and gives words of encouragement to patients. On Wednesdays, she also looks after a mentally challenged person at the Psychiatric Hospital.
She also participates in feeding programmes for the disadvantaged and she organises community picnics and fun days.
King is also a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and through the church she distributes food and clothing to needy people. When she was the president of the church’s missionary department a few years ago, she took on the challenge of developing missionary work in Haiti.
She is currently the president of the Diabetes Gloria Light Group of the Edgar Cochrane Polyclinic, Wildey, St Michael.
In 1988, King opened Hazel’s School of Arts and Crafts and taught a number of unemployed women how to make handicraft and baked goods. Though the school, in need of repairs, closed recently, it was a beacon of hope for women and mothers in a time when the country was experiencing hard economic times and thousands were laid off from work.
The school also fostered a sense of entrepreneurship in the students. King said over 60 students graduated from her school every year when it was in operation.
King also used to teach arts and crafts at Ann Hill School and Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary School.
When it comes to the outstanding contributions she made to society, King is in a league of her own and her remarkable deeds have not gone unrecognised.
In 2008 she was nominated as one of the first Caribbean’s regional Unsung Heroes and three years prior, she was nominated as one of the 1000 Peace Women Across The Globe.
Though these accolades speak to the depth of work she has done for her country, above all King is a survivor.
For many years, King was a victim of abuse in her marriage. Though she did not go into details, she said, “One day I could no longer take the blows so I told him to go his way and I went mine.”
Shortly afterwards, the single parent, who also took care of her mother, was laid off from work. With her back against the wall and all odds against her, she looked within and realised she had talented hands. The next year, she opened her school.
In 1995 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she received the shocking news, she was unsure of what to do.
Her doctor told her she had to make a quick decision as she only had six months to live but King said she wasn’t taking any drastic measures until she was ready.
“I had to pray about it first and it took me a year to get back to Dr Ward.
“Although I was concerned about my health and I knew I had a few months to live, I left everything in the hands of the Lord.”
She is now healed of the cancer.
When asked if she could turn back the hands of time, what would she do differently, she stated she would live her life no other way. (SB)