Patricia Harding works as the housekeeping and kitchen manager at the Jam Lodge Hotel in Freetown. She’s at her desk on the hotel’s top floor and greets guests as they arrive for their morning breakfast. Patricia talks a little about her family, then explains her education and work experience. She closes with advice to others and a special message to women.
I was born and raised in Freetown to Krio parents. My mother worked as a nursing sister of midwifery and my father continues to work as a Reverend priest in an Anglican church. They are still alive and well, so I thank God for that. I also have siblings, two brothers and one sister.
I attended one of the best all-girls secondary schools in the city, Annie Walsh Memorial. They transformed us girls into women of integrity and substance. I appreciated the staff because they taught us how to feel comfortable anywhere in the world. I can express myself in both Krio and English comfortably. I learned some German and French as well. I don’t remember much French because that teacher was very hostile towards me. I loved German because the teacher had an opposite personality—very friendly and accommodating.
After graduating secondary school, I attended the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Vocational Institute. They taught me so many things: catering, business management, accounting, and communications. I also engaged in gardening, crafts, and home management. They taught us how to take care of children, wash newborn babies, and how to prepare our homes. I finished the program in three years and interned at a local restaurant for three months. They taught me on-the-job skills like cooking Lebanese food and continental dishes. After my training I felt ready to find a full-time job.
I started my own small catering business for cakes, pies, and breads. I ran everything by myself and clients would request my services. They asked me to decorate their halls, make birthday cakes, and cater for them. My business did very well and I made good profits.
My catering success led me to my next job. I joined the kitchen staff and worked as the front desk receptionist at a newly built hotel named Kimbima. Guests visited us from around the world and I soon fell in love with the hospitality field. It became my true passion. I love to serve and interact with different personalities and attitudes. Some guests can be difficult but that doesn’t dampen my spirits. I’m a people person so I truly love everybody, but not all people love me! Patricia laughs. I left Hotel Kimberma because I went to live with my sister in Abidjan. I spent two months there coaching and teaching her colleagues about customer service.
I returned to Freetown about five years ago. My friend and former catering customer enjoyed my services in the past, so she recommended me for a new job. Her brother needed help managing his new hotel, the Jam Lodge.
I had to prove my skills by cooking African dishes like cassava leaf. Most people don’t know how to make it and that could lead to food poisoning. After beating the leaf well, it must be cooked until it becomes brown in color. Then the other ingredients can be added to the pot. Some people cook the other ingredients first, then add the cassava leaf near the end. That’s wrong and leads to poisoning.
The owner of Jam Lodge hired me after seeing my skills, and I’ve worked there for five years now. I love our team—we live and work as a family. Everybody tries their best and does their job well. The proprietor is a good man: we joke, laugh, and have lots of love for each other. When a team member gets sick, the other workers help out. We watch over each other.
My heart hurts when I see young girls doing sex work around the beach. Some are even school-aged. It’s really painful. I also feel sorry for boys who resort to thieving. I hope the government can make an institution for the youth and other school dropouts. Not all people want to be doctors, lawyers, or nurses. The youth should learn a trade they are passionate about to permanently escape their bad lives. When I went to Abidjan, I saw boys toting sewing machines on their heads. They went house to house to offer tailoring work. They learned a trade and found a good way to get an income.
Mothers—raise your children to be good people. Teach them to be content and satisfied with life. Don’t give everything your child wants, because sometimes they lack the wisdom to realize what is best for them. As a young girl, I ate bread and butter for breakfast before school. I didn’t eat again until the evening, but that didn’t discourage me from learning. Life was not too easy for me, but I never envied anybody, even when my schoolmates in secondary school received Jeeps. I felt happy for them and knew that my time would come.
To women, let us all stand for our rights and work with men side-by-side. God made us from man’s rib and we are equal. Let no man smash us down. Some men don’t treat us with respect, even if we give them all of our love. They think “I can do anything to her and she’ll bear it.” That causes some women to become depressed. If you see your sister down, don’t push her down even further. Help her up instead. Let’s stop judging and start loving each other. Love is the answer to our struggles.
I love too much at the end of the day, and one man took advantage of me. I walked away because I won’t let a man stress me. I’m a single mother and my child succeeded. My son became a computer scientist and supports me now. He and my other children are now my advisors.
You should notice any warning signs in your relationships with men. Don’t let him take advantage of you. Let him go and let God into your life. Some women turn to fetishes or witch guns to curse men. They aren’t worth the extra stress. If a man treats you badly, don’t turn to revenge. I believe that God and karma will take care of him. Above all don’t be afraid to love again.