PROFILE ON DAMION CAMPBELL
When most high school students leave sixth-form they already have an idea of what they might want to study at university or trade school, or what they might want to do in life. But that wasn’t the case for Damion Campbell. For him, the transition from high school brought confusion and doubt as to what he wanted to do.
Having no real direction, he had a conversation with his mother that helped him identify his natural propensities to function as a broker and a peacemaker between his friends and to find solutions to others’ problems.
With that, she encouraged him to research social work and see if it was something that he might want to pursue. Having no real knowledge of the field, he went to the library to do his due diligence and found that, not only did it seem to be a good fit, but it spoke to who he was as a person and how he had operated in his life - even without knowing.
Today Damion works with the British Council as the manager for the Social Enterprise and Youth Engagement Programme.
But how exactly does one go from studying social work to working with the British Council? We caught up with Damion during some rare downtime and got a chance to hear a small part of his inspiring story.
After graduating from the University of the West Indies Damion secured a job at the Hanover Parish Council as a Poor Relief Officer. Being placed in this position he was able to champion the cause of the poor, which he did with gusto.
“It was quite interesting," he said.
And one would imagine so, as our nation's streets are lined with homeless individuals. While there, Damion’s efforts were focused on offering or administering basic human services to the population it served. This included homeless persons, children (providing education for those from poor homes) and persons within infirmaries.
This position gave him the hands-on experience to competently instruct the Project Management for Social Development course at VTDI - a course which was mandated by the government under the Poor Relief Act for poor relief administrators.
EXPANDING THE FOUNDATION
Being a Poor Relief Officer also laid a solid foundation for him to move up the ranks of the social development ladder, and after three years he was transferred to the Ministry of Local Government.
“I worked as an Area Officer leading on the homelessness program,” he said.
Being in charge of the National Homelessness Programme he was tasked with monitoring homeless care facilities across the island. In every instance, Damion consistently seized opportunities to build on the solid social work foundation that had been laid.
NOT WILLING TO SETTLE
Campbell eventually found himself at a point in his career where he wanted to do more - the drive to add yet another layer of expertise to his superstructure. After all, there was not much further he could move up in the ranks as a social worker within the Ministry.
“Not being challenged as to how I wanted to - wanting to learn more - so I resigned my job because I wanted to contribute more.”
The move to quit a job before you have another in Jamaica is one that is almost unheard of, but Damion took the leap of faith. He then went on a quest to find opportunities that would allow him to impact policy and strategy within social work.
He eventually landed a job with a Canadian-based NGO - World University Service of Canada (WUSC). Interestingly enough he worked on an agricultural project and, yes, even there social work played a major role.
Being a Gender Equality and Youth Programme Officer with the WUSC would see him pulling on his social work and community development skills. His studies in agriculture during high school came in handy as well as he was able to combine these 3 in order to be effective in his role.
Going into communities, getting to understand how agriculture impacted the lives of women and young people who had different problems, then advising on how best the programme met the needs of these individuals were some of the responsibilities that Damion undertook.
His contribution to the Youth in Agriculture Policy that is now to be tabled by the Ministry of Agriculture is something he’ll forever be proud of.
A SOCIAL WORK FOUNDATION TO BUILD ON
Just as a mason would construct a building block by block, similarly Campbell added yet another set of building blocks to that proverbial superstructure. His passion for creating a lasting legacy landed him where he is currently serving - the British Council.
“I think one of the key things for me and what I tell persons working in social work is that it is very important to understand that we have to build and also diversify our skills and expertise. So while your background is strongly social work, it creates a very good base to work in Jamaica.”
Like a hand to a glove, working with the British Council has proven to be the perfect opportunity for him to make a far and wide impact.
In highlighting his current project he stated that “...The programme I'm mainly working on right now is Social Enterprise in Secondary schools. That’s where we are basically training teachers and young people how to become successful social entrepreneurs.”
“That’s really to address the whole unemployment problem for young people. It’s for three years and basically, we are supporting 14 schools across the island. And then through the clubs, they’ll receive funding through our partner foundation to start their school-based enterprises.”
Contributing to youth and anti-violence programmes and more social entrepreneurship programmes are on the horizon. Undoubtedly we can expect that he will make his mark.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
These days Campbell is dreaming with his eyes wide open and aims to impact policy wherever he goes.
“There must be something that changes whether it be government policy or organizational policy that lasts beyond my tenure within the organization because that will ensure that while I am still working in Kingston, somebody in Hanover where I’m from is able to be impacted by it, something that I would’ve done”.
It is important for one to find their purpose in life and Campbell stated that his is “to make a lasting impact on somebody’s life.”
“It’s about empowering people and seeing that difference in the state of mind of an individual. That drives me; the change that happens...and also the process through it - that’s something that we tend not to focus on as individuals.”
“So we tend not to enjoy or appreciate the process that we go through to support people… what you as a professional or as a worker acquires through the process; just learn from it and also help to create that change that impacts people.”
LEAVING A LEGACY: A MESSAGE FOR SOCIAL WORKERS
We all have that one achievement that we’re most proud of. For Campbell, it was while working at the Ministry of Local Government. In fine Campbell style, he spearheaded the National Homelessness Point in Time Survey.
“Within a week, we went out across the island to do a count of homeless persons in every parish. So we basically interviewed homeless persons. We went into the shelters to gather that information. From that, we generated the first National Homelessness Report.”
“We made recommendations in terms of what solutions would have been best to address homelessness in Jamaica. And from that, you realize it’s a strong focus of the current minister of local government. He is now funding the establishment of homeless shelters in all parishes. It goes back to what I was talking about in terms of your work living beyond you.”
His message to social workers is “be diverse; always build on the skills you possess to keep on learning. Step out into new avenues that you also have an interest in no matter how simple it is; once it can contribute to society that's good. And also I would say keep the standard of social work high; don't let the situation or context in which people tend to look at it determine how you deliver that job or how you look at it. You have to keep a positive outlook in terms of your environment and just how you deliver your services in a professional manner. Ensure that we deliver high-quality work to people who are in need."
Damion Campbell shows us all that a profession in social work provides limitless opportunities not only for personal development and growth but that if you continue to build on its foundation you might actually be able to change the world.
To contact Damion you can email him at email@example.com. Or follow him on You can follow him on Instagram @St.Oman.