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I feel that my cultural heritage is very interesting as my grandparents travelled to the UK, and settled in London for the purpose of achieving improved life opportunities. My grandfather travelled from Poland and my grandmother from Jamaica. I believe that this may have been in the late 30’s or 40’s. Therefore my mother has a duel heritage of Polish and Jamaica. My father the oldest of 5 children travelled from the island of Jamaica in the late 50’s to join his aunt and uncle who had settled in Manchester and were employed in jobs with British Rail in the 1950’s. My father’s family wished my father to access a skilled occupation and he commenced in role in the automotive industry.
My childhood was spent living with my family in Manchester. In this area of Manchester the families and children/ friends whom I interacted with on a daily basis had Irish or English heritage. I was the only child whom had parents of colour. However, we all had parents who had a history of travelling to seek improved life opportunities for themselves and their children. I believe that this was one of the reasons I was seen as a ‘child’ whom was a part of all of my friend’s families. And some 40 years on I still meet with these friends, receive Christmas cards and have been part of their children’s, children’s lives.
I met on a small number of children of colour during my school years, some whose parents had travelled from the Caribbean or Indian subcontinent. We chatted about food, grandparents in foreign countries and as girls we chatted constantly about hair styles. Or actually the lack of opportunities for hair styling for afro Caribbean girls hair.
Food was a large part of our family. As a family my mother and father cooked traditional Caribbean foods, we visited friends in all areas of Manchester and always had the opportunity to eat and enjoy the foods full of the richness of spices, flavours and tastes of the country of my father’s birth. During these meals, I listened to the histories of Jamaica and the Caribbean islands, the sunshine, music, cricket and aspects ‘britishness’ of Jamaica.
During these formative years, each year I attended Manchester Caribbean Festival. History, heritage, people, music, clothing and nostalgia being the concepts of this highly enjoyable fun family event.
Achieving improved life opportunities, through education and activities such as sport formed a significant part of my family’s philosophy throughout my life. Monthly telephone calls with paternal grandparents in the Caribbean and aunts and uncles in the USA, explored education development and conversations of the developments in the Caribbean islands. How family members had travelled to the USA for education and careers.
Meeting all my paternal family in the USA and Jamaican during the 80’s/90s (I was in my teens) this was truly inspirational. The reason for saying this being I recognised the significant careers opportunities for my family, specifically the females in my family. The opportunity to travel to the USA in the 80’s and to be exposed to this culture had a significant impact on my aspirations for education and future career’s. I recognised that people of colour in the UK did not have the scope of career opportunities as my family in the USA. Following this journey to visit my family (whom I have been visiting regular from the last 30 years) I acknowledged that I had educational choices, I had to continue my education, hold on to the values of my family, lead by example and support through praise, recognition and acknowledgement all who sought advice and guidance from me, that ‘you’ can achieve anything if you are determined.
My own educational achievements – 3 O’levels aged 16. A significant wake up call, as I completed 13. Since this time – I have achieved A levels, first Degree, a master’s degree, leadership qualifications, teaching qualifications, several nursing qualifications, written teaching programmes and worked in development countries as a nurse / teacher.
I am passionate about supporting people who may not have an awareness of how they can achieve their goals. My family have demonstrated that the colour of your skin is no barrier to achieving your goals and aspirations. A mentor/ support is an important part to achieving improved life opportunities. This philosophy is based on the values of my inspirational family members.
My brother died aged 4 years, in the early 70’s. He had a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, at this time the medical services that we had access to were limited, compared to today’s health care services. Therefore, today I value the fact that I may be able to support through my knowledge and experience a family and child in their medical journey and ensure that this journey is based on their choice and is a qualitative experience. I am an advocate for families and am not afraid to support the family to the best of my ability.
Reflecting on the friendships, families, fun, laughter and learning that I have been fortunate to be experience in my time as a nurse.
It can take many years to achieve your goals, you will value and grow emotionally/ intellectually from each step of your journey. It may not always be easy, but keep going, it will be an amazing experience for you when you achieve your goals and you will be so proud of yourself.
Alder Hey Children's Charity