A woman with focus in the Virgin Islands

She helps transform lives

thumb: janicemathurin2web

Maura Curley

A little more than a decade ago Janice Mathurin was sick, overweight and lethargic, at risk for diabetes because of her lifestyle. She had been a nurse, working at Juan Luis Hospital in St. Croix, but she wasn’t a good role model for patients under her care. She weighed 289 pounds, had two heart attacks, a stroke and wondered if she’d be around to see her four children become adults.

Now she is almost half her previous weight, healthy, fit, vibrant, and strong, helping transform other’s lives like she changed her own. Mathurin is the founder and driving force behind Women with Focus, a Virgin Island not for profit enterprise, which focuses on issues Mathurin feels are critical to the well being of others.

Mathurin is especially concerned about childhood obesity in the Virgin Islands. She says “ An alarming number of Virgin Islanders are overweight or obese and are unaware of their condition.” She fears childhood obesity and diabetes will become a territory wide epidemic, if nothing is done.

Women With Focus uses its resources to educate parents and their adolescent children about the dangers of childhood obesity and ways to prevent it. It offers free exercise classes, lectures and seminars that focus on lifestyle changes.

Mathurin observes that very few people eat the daily recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables.“ People need good nutrition and physical activity every day," she stresses.

Mathurin, who is a certified nutritional counselor, works with other counselors and school nurses to provide nutritional guidelines and personalized programs to help overweight children. Women with Focus also offers an after school fitness club. aerobic classes, soccer, tennis, basketball, bowling, skating and arts and crafts for children in St. Croix. Activities are also offered on St. Thomas and St. John.

She encourages parents to become the example for their children to follow. This prompted her to add slim down classes for adults to Women with Focus programs. “ Losing weight as a family can be very rewarding,” she says.

Watching her in action, is inspiring. She perceives a need, and figures out how to help. A few years ago she was driving in St. Croix and spotted an elderly woman hitchhiking by the side of the road. She learned the woman lived in a senior housing complex, and was trying to get to the store and the bank. Mathurin cancelled her afternoon plans, drove the woman to her errands and took her back to her apartment. Mathruin recalls the women said “ God Bless you darling. I wish there were more like you.” Mathurin says this made her realize there were many more like that women, who needed transportation and support.

Within a few weeks Mathurin had hooked up the woman’s senior center with the VITRAN bus service on the island and arranged for free transportation.

Now Women with Focus also offes free exercise classes for seniors, and special meals and events during holidays at Joseph E James Center in St. Croix. “ We need to take care of our children and seniors,” says Mathurin, who is never content to just enumerate previous accomplishments.

Women with Focus has added a youth development program with personal counseling, peer support, and even academic assistance.

For more information about Women with Focus, clickhere or call 340-643-0426.

Photo of Janice Mathurin courtesy Women with Focus.

Maura Curley is publisher of virginvoices.com

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