BY: KABRENA ROBINSON
Shakara Andem’s success story stands as a testament to the power of faith, persistence, and resilience. What most might have deemed as obstacles unable to overcome, she embraces as important life lessons that have shaped her successful path. With her first semi-autobiographical children’s book, she hopes that others will be inspired and motivated to strive for success despite adversity. Andem who was born in Jamaica had a pretty rough childhood. At the tender age of one year old, she ended up in an orphanage after she was left on a doorstep by her mother who at the time was unable to take care of her. After a couple years of searching, Andem’s father was able to locate her and she was brought home at the age of six. What seemed like a long-awaited family reunion and finally a permanent home for her was cut short after her father was forced to return her to the children’s home after being told that having her in his care would only “bring more problems”. For the innocent six-year-old Andem, the life of isolation and abandonment had resumed as she moved from one children’s home to the next. It was not until she was eleven years old that she was finally able to return home, living with her grandmother in Bull Bay a community on the border between St Andrew and St Thomas in Jamaica. After years of being without a home and a family, she was finally able to live a normal childhood.
After the death of her father, she then migrated to Canada in 2001 to live with her mother who she was able to rekindle a close relationship with.
Now looking back at how far she has come and all she had to overcome as a child, Andem has since learned that her childhood experience was a process that was meant to prepare her for a life of inspiring other young children. Her experiences have also taught her the importance of trusting God, even in moments when circumstances might seem hopeless. This has inspired her to write her first book titled There is a God based off of real life events to give hope to others and to teach children the importance of faith and prayer, something that she believes has brought her to where she is today.
“I knew based on the life that I lived that it was like a testimony,” she said in an interview. “At a young age you don’t really realize that purpose that is in your life but as I got to grow in Christ and found out who I am in Christ I gained that understanding that some of the things that you go through it’s not an easy practice for you but it’s just to take you to a place where God wants you.”
Andem says that the decision to write a children’s book was influenced by her background and her current profession of constantly working with kids. a line of work that she thoroughly enjoys. She also added that it was important for her to write a book that teaches children about the importance of faith while specifically centering children of color as main characters.
“Majority of the time when I look at books at different places that I go to I see a lot of books with all these other kids but I don’t see a lot of books that represent who I am and also children that I have worked with, “she said. “So, I want to be that driving force that brings out books for children especially telling them to hold on and know that God will work it out.”
Andem says that this is especially essential for children of color; as a significant amount of research has documented the problem of racial and ethnic disproportionality and disparity in the child welfare system that shows the over-representation of black and indigenous children when compared with their representation in the general population. Her mission is to reach as many children as possible with her stories of optimism and perseverance. She also hopes to produce other books in the future with a specific focus on special needs.
“The thing that is different about my books is that I want them to be relatable to whether it be a special needs child or a child with behavioral issues or a child that feels like they don’t fit into the norm and even kids who are victims of abuse,” she said. “Just to bring it home to all kids so they know they are special no matter what the difficulties that you might face in life they can and will overcome.”