Written by: Sophia Roman
Article source: JOY! Magazine

Watching a fight from the 3rd floor balcony of their flat in the “Valley of Plenty”, right in the heart of Hanover Park, was the most devastating experience for young Jerome Samuels. He was only 16 at the time. He watched as his best friend, Jeff, was stabbed. With all the energy he had, Jerome ran to help. He picked him up, but sadly it was too late. Jeff died in his arms. Hanover Park, a place of drugs and gangsterism, is truly an area where dreams and hopes are lost for countless youth.

Drop out to trolley boy
This experience made Jerome lose the desire to continue his schooling despite being in the top three academically throughout his schooling. He lost all motivation to continue, dropped out, and joined his brother who was already involved in gangsterism. His life just spiralled into utter dismay. All he wanted to do was to avenge the death of his friend. He planned to get hold of those who took his friend away. Jerome worked as a trolley boy (pushing trollies) at the Elite supermarket. He later upgraded himself and went to work as a taxi guard (the one who collects the taxi fare). Life took a downhill turn as he punched through life’s challenges. He ended up as a general worker at Golden Arrow Bus Service.

Inspiring the opposite
His mother was so upset and yet concerned. Her fears and heartache witnessed the loss of another son to gangsterism and the drug world. She decided to send him away to live with his aunt in Bonteheuwel to get away from this notorious space. There he met Rene, who enrolled him to do his matric. Rene brought out the good in him in several ways and became his biggest supporter and a strong pillar. It was at this juncture that he made a choice to get back up and restart his life again. The best thing he could do was to ask Rene to be his bride.

Changing his life
In 2017, Jerome began his studies at the University of the Western Cape. Today he is the area coordinator of development and care at the Goodwood Correctional Centre and has served in this department for the last 30 years. Recently, he graduated with a PhD in Philosophy and also serves as a credentialed pastor within the Apostolic Faith Mission church. In his own words, Dr Jerome Samuels confesses, “Sometimes on the outside we feel like sitting down, but on the inside you need to see yourself tall.” This is proof that decisions followed by actions can change life’s trajectory no matter how low the fall has been.

Disaster to doctor and pastor
His dissertation focused on crime management and preventing offenders from reoffending (recidivism). This has been bothering Jerome, and he decided to study and do the research to understand why it happens. Unemployment and the criminal record of a person are contributing factors; however, society finds it difficult to accept offenders back into their communities – hence they often end up back in prison.

Attitude changes circumstances
From a dropout to a pastor to a PhD in Philosophy – Jerome’s message is clear, “Never allow your circumstances to change your attitude. Let your attitude determine your circumstances.”

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Date published: 02/06/2024
Feature image: Dr Jerome Samuels
Sophia Roman – pioneer, visionary and life transformation coach. Sophia and her husband, Theo, pastor the West Reach AOG Church in Mitchells Plain.

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