Unsung Hero: leading volunteers in Africa
More than 100 volunteers from across the world are heading soon for Tanzania — where 27-year-old Bermudian Jermaé Paynter-Smith awaits them.
Their diverse expeditions in the mountains and plains of the east African state come with the sustainable development and life-changing experiences offered by Raleigh International.
Ms Paynter-Smith is the one in charge of what happens when they get there.
Rather than issuing orders, her daunting job will be measured out in medical kits, meal plans, and the other accoutrements of a successful expedition.
“I think I'm more nervous about travelling by myself,” she told The Royal Gazette on the eve of starting her journey. Purchasing Raleigh's equipment in the teeming city Dar es Salaam — and making sure that everything works — comes with being the expedition logistics coordinator, a particularly senior role in the Raleigh hierarchy.
The job, which will keep her in Tanzania for the next 13 weeks, also includes making sure everything is in reasonable repair at the end, as well as tallying up the inevitable breakages.
“There's also the driving, which is going to be awesome,” she added.
Her Raleigh journey began with the inspiration, and the tragic end, of her cousin Malcolm Outerbridge, who came home from Malaysia in 2011, telling her stories of his transformation.
Carrying on in Malcolm's example became doubly important to her after his murder later that same year.
“I needed that life-changing experience at that time,” she said.
She recounted how she had bogged down in balancing her studies with her work as a police cadet, struggling with her motivation and her basic sense of self.
After a lifetime of seeing little beyond her home shores, she ended up in Malaysia as well.
“It was amazing,” she recalled. “It gave me my life back. I was not in a good space before then.”
Raleigh Bermuda is keen to keep its alumni involved — a role Ms Paynter-Smith took to eagerly, as Tina Nash, the group's executive director, can attest.
“For the last two years Jermaé has been a project manager for our camps, acting as a mentor, leader and supporter for our young Bermudians, helping me with the logistics, the risk assessment, the food, the timetable,” Ms Nash said.
Commended as the 2015 volunteer of the year, she was taken on at a salaried role for Raleigh Bermuda; she is also the chairwoman of the alumni committee, and the youngest member of its board of directors — a formidable set of duties that she juggles with her volunteer work as a police reserve.
Such is her capacity in Raleigh that instead of coming directly home from a dusty tour of duty in Tanzania, Ms Paynter-Smith will head to London to represent the local division at the 2016 Raleigh International global conference.
“Jermaé is everything we hope for in our young Bermudians,” Ms Nash said.
Thanking her mother Brenda Lowe, father Jerome Smith and stepfather Dennis Lowe, Ms Paynter-Smith also thanked Ms Nash for being “a second mother to me”.
The executive director's mentorship goes further: one day the group hopes for Ms Paynter-Smith to assume the role — heading a board of directors composed entirely of Raleigh alumni.