She has already achieved so much in a very short span than most would not accomplish in a lengthy lifetime.
Jamaican Kim-Marie Spence is a Rhodes Scholar and Oxford graduate who can communicate in French, Hindi, Spanish and Japanese. She co-founded the Caribbean Policy Research Institute – the region’s first think-thank, worked on Wall Street and in Israel and India, was a researcher for former Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga and is the only Jamaican to attempt to ski to the South Pole.
While at university in the United States, she was the recipient of Wesleyan University’s Black Women’s Collective award and a New England Small College Athletic Conference women’s track team academic all-star.
By the way, Spence is just 30 and settling into her new job as Jamaica’s Film Commissioner.
“This post is very challenging,” Spence told Share while in Toronto earlier this month to network and promote the country as a filmmaker’s paradise at the 35th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). “I have, however, always had a passion for the creative arts and culture, so I will thrive in this position.
“The film industry in Jamaica is booming and we are looking for partnerships and investments. If we as a small island can produce this much, what more can we do if we are working with you here…A lot of people think of Jamaica as just sun, beach and sand, but there is so much more. We have acting and technical talent and a lot of variety…Jamaica is open for business in the creative industries.”
Spence made history last November by becoming the first Jamaican to take part in the Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition. She failed to make the 38-day 900-kilometre journey to the South Pole in -30C temperatures, withdrawing five weeks before the end with frostbite.
“I had the blackened fingers to prove it and the medical staff advised me not to continue,” said Spence. “However, it was a very interesting experience. We had the bobsledders and dogsledders on ice before me. We have made our mark in winter sports and we have a brand in that area that needs to be supported.”
A total of 800 women from 52 nations applied to participate in the gruelling expedition. Spence and the other seven finalists were selected after a training run in Norway in February and March. While in Antarctica, the team – which travelled without a guide – survived on lightweight dehydrated rations and melted snow, slept in tents on the ice and pulled sledges containing their food, fuel and equipment.
“I was very aware of the dangers and challenges of going to Antarctica and I was prepared to deal with the fallout,” said Spence who made the Jamaica Gleaner’s 2006 list of phenomenal women. “I should have prepared my family a little better about the trip and that’s my only regret. They did not know what frostbite was.”
Spence graduated from Immaculate Conception High School – the alma mater of former Ontario Cabinet Minister Mary Anne Chambers and ex-Jamaican Consul General Anne-Marie Bonner – and Wesleyan University with honours and worked as an investment banking analyst with Lehman Brothers which filed for bankruptcy two years ago.
While Spence relished her role in the corporate world, she felt she could make a much more meaningful contribution in the community development field.
She spent time working in Israel with a Palestinian organization providing shelter and counselling for gender-based violence and in Delhi, India with The Global March against Child Labour as a campaign officer. She also lived in Kerala, India, learning about communities and interned at the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.