By Kiana Wilburg
He resisted a career in law for as long as he possibly could. And even though he has moved from being a minibus tout to a practicing Attorney-at-Law, Ronald J. Daniels is still to accomplish his two major aspirations in life. He wants to give his mother the best life he can, and become a politician who actually serves the people.
He sums up his journey to this stage in three words – graphic, saddening and inspirational.
Originally from Linden, Daniels, the son of Marcia Daniels and former Magistrate Fitzgerald Yaw, spent most of his life in Kaneville, East Bank Demerara.
He attended Grove Primary, Central High School and then the Guyana Technical Institute (GTI) where he studied Land Surveying. He then progressed to the University of Guyana (UG) where he did International Relations and returned to GTI to complete studies in Civil Engineering. Finally, Daniels decided to pursue studies in law; first at UG and then at Hugh Wooding Law school.
But, he saw things a child should never have to. Growing up, most holidays like Christmas which children look forward to, instantly lost significance and appeal after a bizarre illness took hold of his mother for which doctors to this day are unable to diagnose.
“My mom got sick when I was eight years old and has been on and off ever since. I was forced to mature very quickly. I stopped celebrating Easter and Christmas because it lost meaning to me. She is the world to me and I was very saddened and confused by it at the time. I always wanted to be by her side, but she was always in and out of hospital. Growing up was relatively tough because I was from relative to relative when she was not around. I didn’t grow up with my dad. I spent most of my early years with my grandmothers and aunts. In my early teens I moved in with my eldest sister. When I was around 14, I moved in with my step father who lived with his father. He was a gravedigger. My mom lived there too. The gravedigger was cruel to my mother. He said things to her that I can’t repeat. I would wake up sometimes and see him stirring funny things into her food. All I know is that when my mother was there with that man she got worse. Doctors couldn’t say what was wrong and they told us to seek spiritual intervention. We did. I saw my mom at times speaking in tongues and screaming of these images she saw. My mom only got her strongest relief when the gravedigger died in an accident. Let’s just say I believe that inequity exists.”
But when Daniels turned 17, he found it imperative to get a job, any job. It didn’t matter to him because he had to make ends meet. He wanted to take care of his mother and still push himself to where he is today.
As for his father, the former Magistrate, Daniels recalls his father being present throughout some parts of his childhood. He asserted that to some extent, his dad was there for him financially.
“My dad was active in the sense of stressing the importance of an education. I would do Saturday lessons in the English language with him. I wish he was around more often but I imagine he had his own challenges and reasons why he was not so involved in other aspects of my life,” Daniels added.
Nevertheless, the Lindener said that his aspiration has always been to “give my mom a better life, a normal life. I am committed to her, she has shaped my life, the ultimate decisions I have made are because of her. She has taught me to be resilient. I had the opportunity to leave for better educational opportunities in the USA but I couldn’t leave her.”
Because of his passion and unconditional love for his mom, Daniels took several odd jobs to help out.
“I was a minibus conductor when I was at GTI and even at my first year of law at UG. I was working the bus even when I was working with Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes. So basically, I studied law in the day and worked as a tout in the night. I worked as a street vendor, selling glasses and knives sometimes. I worked as a construction labourer. I did pipe-work and I was even a security guard at night and went to classes in the morning. I have had those jobs because things were hard and I had to make ends meet. I did two to three jobs while studying and still managed to be at the top of the class,” he said.
After much sacrifice, Daniels was admitted to the Bar in Trinidad and Tobago in November and in Guyana on December 19. He now works in Trinidad at the Templeman’s Chambers. He noted however, that his reason for not being in Guyana is due to the significant debts he incurred for his studies. He said that the TT economy is much better than Guyana’s but after taking care of his bills he hopes to return to his homeland and serve his country.
But Daniels maintained that he wants to be more than a lawyer. He confessed that his true passion is politics. “I want to make a real difference,” he says.
He disclosed too that part of his passion for being more than just the average lawyer is his role model, Nigel Hughes. He finds the local attorney to be one who is the embodiment of humility and personifies the oath taken by lawyers.
“I have seen him do so many pro bono cases on very serious matters and he has conducted those matters with an unrivaled passion and commitment. So even though I have bigger plans, I still want to be as great as my role model. Politics is my passion and the law is good for that passion. The leading politicians have a good command of the law and the Constitution is the back bone of the system, so what better place to start than to have a good grasp of the law. I have my sights on someday governing the country,” Daniels remarked.
Now happily married and a father of an eight-year-old, Daniels says he has no regrets. His philosophy is, “Never look to the past with regret or the future with fear but live the present in awareness.”
For those who may be in the position of moving from one odd job to the next , fearing that dreams may be unattainable, this lawyer says, “You see the obstacles when you take your eyes off the goals and the obstacles should never be a concern. Don’t complain and let pride get in the way. Do what you have to. It’s all part of finding your profound purpose in life. I am living proof of that”
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