AFTER diligently serving the Guyana Police Force for almost 30 years, Charlene Phillips retired in January 2021 as a decorated police sergeant. As her retirement date drew near, reality dawned; Phillips would no longer be part of the uniformed efforts to protect the nation. This meant that she needed an alternative outlet via which she could continue to serve her country and social work seemed like an ideal fit.
After being inspired by former Commissioner of Police Leslie James, Phillips wasted no time in enrolling for the Social Work programme at the University of Guyana’s Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE).
“He said these words to some ranks that he had engaged in a meeting when he was the Commander of ‘A’ Division…he said, ‘Go and get yourself enrolled at UG [University of Guyana]; go and take up some studies.’ I took up the challenge and I will continue until I get my master,” a determined Phillips told the Guyana Chronicle during an interview on Sunday.
As her academic journey commenced, Phillips grew even more skilled at multitasking and ensuring a sense of balance in all areas of her life. When the novel coronavirus struck Guyana in March 2020, ‘Sarge’ was automatically placed in the at-risk category, but her role as a frontline worker meant that her commitment to the people of Guyana came first. Without hesitation, Phillips cast aside her fears and continued to effectively execute her functions as an officer of the law.
“They were some cases where I forgot that there was a virus and still had persons up close who wanted that listening ear,” Phillips cringed.
She recalled having to steer a tight ship to ensure that her ranks were safe as they too continued to ‘serve and protect.’ “While some [members of the public] were not into the wearing of any mask, I would advise my ranks to stand back, but still listen,” Phillips related. “All in all, I am thankful that for the period I was at work I pulled through,” she added.
Phillips told the Guyana Chronicle that even though COVID-19 has put a strain on the entire world, it did not affect her studies and her life as a student.
The New Amsterdam, Berbice resident said she was able to complete her courses before the novel coronavirus struck Guyana in 2020.
However, it was her duties and responsibilities as sergeant that clashed with her role as a student.
“Being in charge as a subordinate officer in charge of a station, my functions [were] to see the day-to-day operations at [the] station. I always try to cover all the important areas and then run out to classes and return, once the task is not completed,” Phillips recalled.
She said that even though pursuing a tertiary education was an integral part of her continuing to serve Guyana, her dedication to her then active profession was a means of honouring her family’s legacy of serving and protecting the people of Guyana.
“I think it was in my DNA, because my dad and brother were firemen…I didn’t make up my mind, though, until I was 25,” Phillips disclosed.
Reflecting on all the ups and downs that continue to characterise her life, the retired sergeant emphasised the impact her mother had in shaping the woman she is today. “My life growing up, in my family, my mom, although a single mother, had instilled some serious values in us; we never had the cause to go looking or seeking for anything, because she made sure that we had everything,” Phillips reflected.
She said that her mother’s upbringing continues to reaffirm the importance of serving humanity and giving, whether in tangibles or in service.
“One day she brought home a chocolate and we had additional family members visiting and my mom ensured that whatever we had was shared evenly among us. To this day that’s how it is,” Phillips said.
In moving forward, the recent UG graduate indicated her plans to continue her education in the area of Guidance and Counselling. “I am presently preparing to do another programme,” she posited.
Phillips said that her academic endeavours continue to benefit from the unwavering support of her children.
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