Jamilla Sealy is a name that will surely make its way across the world for contributions to it. Sealy is a 29-year-old Barbados native, educator, environmental advocate, and Sickle-Cell warrior. Fun facts about her? She’s one humble being, loves her natural afro hair, and attended secondary school with Rihanna. I had the pleasure of speaking in depth about her experiences and endless efforts to preserve natural resources. Conversing with her was like catching up with a long-time friend that you haven’t seen in a few years. In that conversation was transparency, understanding, and appreciation for all one has.
As a child, Sealy grew to love the outdoors, agriculture, and found herself falling in love with geography and science. When it came to learning, she pursued the very things she loved. She obtained her Bachelors of Science in Environmental and Natural Resource Management and her Masters of Science in Natural Resources and Environmental Management with a concentration in Climate Change. Upon obtaining her Masters, Sealy discovered the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) and began to apply her knowledge and skills to a life-long passion. These accomplishments also led her to begin teaching youth in secondary school on the topics of geography.
Sealy’s love for nature, the environment, and resource preservation earned one of her greatest honors of receiving the 2017 Queen’s Young Leader Award from Queen Elizabeth II of England herself. During the 50th Independence Anniversary of Barbados, she was brought on stage during the celebration by Prince Harry as he announced her as the recipient. While speaking with him, she learned that the environment and conservation were big on his agenda.
During a time when she felt social issues were usually at the forefront, it was a relief to know that the environment was recognized. It was an achievement that made her proud of her efforts and country. She was able to fly to England, speak with the Queen about her mission and future plans, and received the honorable award. When asked about her experience, Sealy replied, “For me to have won that award for my country at that time was amazing. I felt really proud of myself and finally doing something good. It’s been something that I’ve been doing for years. I felt like I had made some kind of achievement and I felt proud for my country as well”.
GLOBAL WARMING & NATURAL DISASTERS
When asked about her opinions on global warming and natural disasters, Sealy replied, “For me, it’s definitely real. I actually studied climate change for my Masters degree, and it’s definitely a real thing. We, in the Caribbean, have been experiencing some threats already. I didn’t think it would happen so soon. Just from seeing how things were when I was growing up to how things are now, I have actually seen the changes myself.
Normally around November it gets cooler, but a few years back it seemed warm as Summer. So it was a bit weird to see all that. Sometimes we’re getting rain when it doesn’t usually come. The thing that woke up a lot of people last year were Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which were record-breaking storms. It totally destroyed Dominica (Commonwealth of Dominica) and a few of the other islands as well, like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Just seeing that kind of devastation… Maria was a force to reckon with. I hoped that would’ve woken up more people to the fact that the climate is changing.
I have actually never experienced a hurricane before. Whenever it happened, I was always somewhere else, in some other country. I knew people that were living in Dominica at the time and I did not hear from him for about three days. To hear his actual experience during the hurricane and after, he told me the stories of how he had to survive having no food and no water. Having to walk through the town for an hour, going through debris, no electricity… I honestly can’t imagine being in that situation. I think people in my country, because we haven’t really been hit by a hurricane since 1966, I think we’re a bit complacent. A lot of people say things like ‘God is a Bajan’, which means ‘God is a Barbadian’. They say it’s not going to happen because God is protecting us. I think we’re a bit complacent and I don’t think we’re ready for any hurricane to hit us.”
After speaking about her honors, Sealy opened up about one of her more personal experiences- living with Sickle Cell Anemia. Often backing down from speaking on the subject, she is slowly, but surely finding her voice in teaching others about the disease. From her experiences, there aren’t many who are aware of Sickle Cell and how it affects the body. This usually leads to judgment or being perceived as “lazy” when the disease begins to get the best of her. A few years ago, she spent four and a half hours at a public hospital and left untreated. This was even after providing suggestions to assist medical providers in understanding her. Even while traveling, her main concern is the change of weather and how cold the temperature might be. The harshest changes in the environment ultimately determine how her body will react.
After her encounter with this first-hand, Sealy says she never wants anyone else to have these experiences– though the uninsured usually do. “It is a hard struggle here because people have overdosed on the pain medications. Maybe if they had a psychologist or someone that could help them, maybe that could be prevented. I understand, because who wants to be in pain for so long?”, she stated. One of her goals is to meet others living with the disease. She hopes to learn about their experiences and assist them in discovering the resources needed to better cope with their everyday fight to live a normal life.
Jamilla Sealy continues to show the world that she is a diverse woman of beauty, talent, and knowledge. Today, she is the Regional Chairperson for the CYEN, continuously encouraging youth and others in her community to keep the environment clean and as safe as possible. She’s fostered the courage to stand for what she believes in, and hopes to spread her message across the world to establish a better lifestyle for all.