A child of the parish of Westmoreland, Hazel Monteith graduated from the Mannings High school, worked with the Jamaica Federation of Women, dedicated to improving the condition of women. As a field coordinator, Hazel travelled throughout Jamaica, teaching women about the importance of proper nutrition, the education of their children, family planning, adult literacy. She wanted to be better equipped to undertake this important task, so she enrolled in the first social work programme offered at the University of the West Indies (UWI), followed by various programmes in the USA and Canada.
She later joined the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) as a regional officer where she developed social programmes to implement the registration of births, deaths, marriages and other social services. She also became the first director of the Citizens Advice Bureau, an organisation offering counselling, assistance and free legal advice to the public through a daily call-in radio programme on Radio Jamaica (RJR), the country’s most popular radio station. Between 1975 and 1981, the programme Hotline was created by RJR for the Bureau, offering help to persons seeking employment, or persons in distress, seeking social assistance. The programme was so popular that in 1984,Hazel received an award from the Gleaner, the nation’s leading newspaper.
In 1981, Hazel Monteith founded the Citizens Advice Bureau’s Basic School, to provide basic job training skills – home economics and child care – to improve their employment opportunities.
In 1982,for her outstanding contribution to the development of the nation’s social services, Hyacinth was honoured as an officer in the Order of Distinction (OD).
In 1986 she was appointed an independent Senator in Parliament, but stepped down after three years to return to her true calling – social work. In 1990, she founded the Hazel Monteith Skills Training Centre to extend the work for women she had done at the Citizens Advice Bureau. This new centre provided certificates to students who completed courses in child care and domestic science, cooking, dressmaking, hygiene and telephone ethics.
Pioneer: A groundbreaker, the first to enter into a new activity.