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Love in the West

by Latoya Burnham

They say love is a strange and wondrous thing. There really is no rhyme or reason to it and sometimes it can strike at the most inopportune time – or so the Parish Ambassadors for St. James have learnt.

Tremar Forde, 20, and Natalia Coggin, 25, were strangers just a few short months ago. Now Tremar is convinced he has met his future wife.

Sitting in the shade of the esplanade in Fitts Village on a very hot afternoon, he all but blushes when asked about his future plans beyond the Parish Ambassadors Programme. Had his complexion been lighter, his cheeks would no doubt have been bright red above the flash of white teeth, which he quickly covered with his hand.

Beside him, Natalia’s giggle is telling, as their attendant, Stephanie quickly whispered an almost inaudible, “Oh dear, here we go” in a distinct English-tinged accent, and also let out a chuckle of her own.

By now my curiosity is well piqued and I have to ask, “Okay what is going on here?” to which Tremar confessed, “I can only say I believe I have met my future wife”.

This set off another round of laughter among this crew as the story poured out in bits at a time.

When Tremar entered the programme he was so shy that speaking was an issue for him. Natalia, also a bit shy, was a lot more forthcoming with speaking in public and the two soon realised they were almost like ying and yang or opposite sides of the same coin.

“Where I am weak, she is strong and where she needs help, I can provide that,” Tremar stated, and thus began months of being there for each other while learning the ropes of the Ambassadors’ programme. And it has not been easy for either of them, Tremar still measures his words carefully before speaking and Natalia juggles two young children, a very demanding programme and dreams of bettering her life for herself and her family.

Both come from neighbourhoods and backgrounds they said that most would not consider fit for such parish representation, but if anything, it only serves to make them even more determined to do well.

Tremar is a carpenter from Crick Hill, following in the footsteps of his father and uncle – a trade he learnt at his relatives’ knees from childhood and proceeded to study at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic.

Natalia is from Haynesville and is very aware that her neighbourhood is still considered not the best, but she is determined to show that no matter where you come from, good can be the result if you grab hold of the opportunities presented to you.

It is a touching story to be sure, but don’t be fooled into thinking that their growing feelings for each other in any way detracts or subtracts from the competition they have been providing so far and intend to take up another notch at the Spirit of the Nation Gala on November 17.

Natalia has plans in the future to become a nurse. “As a nurse you get to learn a lot about the body. It is a skill that if anyone in the family gets sick, you can be there for them.

“I love children and I hope to open a day care, but it will be one with a difference. Since we are on the tourist coast, I want to offer a service so tourists can come on vacation, leave their children with me while they are here and collect them again when they are ready to fly back home.”

It is a profession she too has taken from her family – her aunt is a nurse, and one of her biggest supporters and role models, next to her mother.

The programme for these two has been a mass of new experiences, to say the least, and lots of education. The information they have gained from the training sessions on public speaking, time management, even learning to model costumes and gowns for the Gala, is information they say they could not have gotten had they not chosen to enter.

And both families have been backing them all the way, with Natalia’s family pitching in to take care of the children when she has to be up and about.

“I’ve told them [her children] that when they see me in my blue shirt and my sash that mommy is going on parish business. So they understand. I’m also doing this because I want to set an example for my children to follow. I want years from now that they look back on this as something they can be proud of mommy for,” she said seriously.

The two said they believe they have been able to accomplish much in the parish through their project, They Thoughts, Let’s Teach, which has honoured 14 stalwarts who have contributed greatly to St. James, from a field of 41 nominations.

For Tremar, the next stage is perhaps one of the most difficult. With his shyness, somewhat still a bit of a challenge for him, though not as much as when he started, he wants now to make his partner and his family proud of him. Both are putting God ahead as they look to the show that will determine the best ambassadors for the year.

So romance aside, these two youths are convinced they are equal to the task ahead.

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