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Nahekia Blackwood — rising from the ashes

Wednesday July 15, 2015 is a date forever etched in the mind of Nahekia Blackwood. At approximately 11:15 pm, he stood in horror as he watched hungry flames ravage the home he shared with his family. Blackwood lost everything, and yet, he did not break down.

“I stood strong because I had a solid support system and also understood that the only person that would ultimately stop me from bouncing back and rising above any situation was me,” he said.

It is that strength of character and positive outlook that has guided Blackwood throughout his life. They are also what won him the nomination for Team Member of the Year for the Kingston Service Department.

“Nahekia is such a helpful person, a true team player. He is the epitomé of superb customer service and will always go the extra mile to make the client happy. He is so kind and super reliable” says his former manager Jacqueline Carter.

The 31-year-old rural St Thomas native, who joined the Appliance Traders Limited (ATL) team as a warehouse attendant and driver is now a qualified service technician studying to become a solar PV installer.

Blackwood recalls that much of his younger days involved visiting the family farm in the off-the-map community of Arcadia with his father to tend to animals and vegetables. This was his family’s source of income which provided sustenance and school supplies while his mother was away at the Eastern Banana Estate.

He made the move to Kingston as a young man, aged 19, where he became a gardener for a retired army captain.

“I knew there was a lot more for me to tap into, so when the captain offered me a job in Kingston I jumped at the opportunity,” he shared. “He was an army man through and through and taught me a lot about decorum, interacting with people, and mutual respect in the workplace. He pushed me to believe in myself and helped me take my next career step.”

Blackwood spent the ensuing four years as a warehouse attendant, driver and van sales representative at The Card People Ltd before seeing an ATL advertisement for which he applied and was successful. His responsibilities would include operating forklifts, trucks and making deliveries.

“One day, after transporting a service technician to a site, he took the vehicle keys to stop me from leaving as he said I needed to learn how to service ACs. I didn’t argue because I appreciated the importance of having a skill. Over the next few months, even on my days off, I learned about refrigeration systems, observed, asked questions, and got hands-on experience with several technicians servicing and installing air conditioners, washing machines and dryers,” Blackwood shared.

“ATL has been like a college — you get a chance to unlock your potential if you want to. Whether you come here with or without a skill, you can leave with one. I’m always looking for ways in which I can develop as a person and I’m extremely grateful for my employers and colleagues who, from the onset, saw something in me and helped me to harness that belief,” he said.

Blackwood recalled that on the night of the fire, the first call he made was to his manager at the time, who stayed with him throughout the night. He was also very thankful for the support he received from his co-workers in general, as well as his teammates on the company’s football team.

Blackwood is in his seventh year at ATL, and says he is looking forward to working closely with the energy solutions/engineering team upon completion of his studies.

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