Born and raised in Jamaica, Shernet Dixon-James, GSEHD MA ’10, has been in the U.S. for 20 years, but her birthplace is never far from her mind or heart.
The GW grad is co-founder of the non-profit, One Love 4 Kids, a DC area-based organization that provides education, health and economic support to inner city, disabled and abused children in Jamaica.
Shernet founded the organization in 2007 with her sister, but when she first came to America, she was alone and without much money. “I had it in me to do better for myself,” she says.
After finishing an associate’s degree in 1998, Shernet worked as a tutor and nanny for families in the DC area. After a “long break” from school, she went back for a master’s degree at GW’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD).
At GSEHD, Shernet studied early childhood special education. “It’s definitely a passion for me!” she says.
What she learned at GW has helped Shernet run One Love 4 Kids. “The skills I acquired at GW transfer very well to what I’m doing in Jamaica,” she explains. “One key takeaway from my studies is that a child is not only part of his/her family, but part of the entire community—influence goes beyond the home.”
One Love 4 Kids works primarily with the Jamaican communities of Kingston, St. Mary and St. Thomas. The organization interacts with 400-500 kids every year, and partners with four schools and three orphanages to provide programming, literacy materials and career seminars for children ages three to twenty-one.
“Our ultimate goal is to have literacy-based programs that allow parents to work with kids in the classroom as aides. This would allow them access to educational materials and help with overall literacy rates in Jamaica, “says Shernet. “I would love to build resource centers that parents in these communities could eventually oversee.”
Last year, One Love 4 Kids also started a summer school program for 40 kids. This year, they’re expecting 100 to participate. “We want everything to get better and keep growing!” says Shernet.
Currently, the organization has seven volunteers in the DC area and 30 in Jamaica; Shernet aims to increase these numbers as well.
“We’d love help from volunteers who have experience in strategic planning for non-profits or who want to teach summer school in Jamaica,” Shernet says.
One volunteer who has already made a difference is Shernet’s four year old daughter, Brianne. “She travels with me and helps with book sales for kids in Jamaica. She gets very excited about it, and I love that I’m instilling values on how to give back,” says Shernet.
Shernet’s history of giving back began early, when she was still a teenager in Jamaica. “I would go to orphanages and churches to help—when you’re poor, you don’t have a lot, but you still want to make a difference.” Now, armed with passion and education, she is able to touch many lives.
Shernet looks forward to growing her organization and working with more communities across Jamaica.
“There’s a lot of violence, disorganization and a lack of education,” says Shernet. “But there’s also a lot of potential. I barely passed high school, but I dreamed of furthering my education and making a difference.”
One Love 4 Kids seeks volunteers from the DC metro area, as well as throughout the US who can volunteer remotely. If you would like to get involved, send an email to: email@example.com. And to keep track of what’s coming up next, find One Love 4 Kids on Facebook and Twitter!