Lifelong Hunts Point resident Jamine Williams grew up wanting to be a construction worker or teacher, but everything changed when her mom got sick.
Williams, 44, who has done outreach for Urban Health Plan for the past seven years, spoke with the Bronx Times about her path to where she is today.
She worked for the Department of Education briefly, but was caught off guard in 2009 when her mom, Dorothy Williams, a retired nurse, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.
“It was just bewildering to me that someone who worked in the medical field got such late diagnosis and ignored a lot of different signs,” Williams said.
Williams explained that her mom always made sure she and her siblings went to the doctor, yet didn’t look after herself. So, she quit her job and took care of her mom.
Things did not get better as her dad, James Williams, a construction worker, suffered a stroke the same year. They both recovered, but he eventually passed away in 2012.
“It was a really hard time for me and I realized then I wanted to do something so families didn’t go through what me and my family went through,” she stated. “I know that a lot of folks in my community don’t get preventive medicine.”
According to Williams, it is not common for people in her community to go to a doctor unless it is an emergency. Whether it was lack of insurance or money, it just wasn’t done.
So, a year after her mom recovered and her dad passed, she joined Urban Health and began doing outreach throughout the borough. She quickly learned that many people, especially in Hunts Point, lack quality food and medical care.
She pointed out that on the peninsula there is only one supermarket as well.
“Your health is determined by your zip code,” she explained.
Today, she works exclusively in Hunts Point and the problems the neighborhood faced have been exacerbated by COVID-19. She informs people about doctors, helps them find insurance and distributes food.
Since the pandemic arrived she and her colleagues have been giving out donated food from restaurants and produce three days a week along with hand sanitizer, gloves and masks.
Williams recalled that growing up there was a lot of open drug use and prostitution, but her parents always kept she and her siblings on the right path.
Her dad and mom taught her the value of hard work.
“They instilled in us anything you want to have in life you can have,” she remarked.
While she is 44, Williams shows that age does not matter when it comes to education. In June 2020 she obtained her bachelor’s in public health from Fordham University and is planning to go for her master’s in public health from CUNY.
Williams is proud to work for Urban Health and is doing as much as possible to help her community.
“Growing up I had a lot of friends’ parents who were on drugs,” she explained. “There were a lot of times I could have went another route, but having my parents in my head and seeing how they were able to make success out of their lives there was no way I was going to let that happen.”