Welcome to this winter edition of the Mary Seacole Trust newsletter. As with our first newsletter in the summer, we reflect on the significant steps we have taken to maintain Mary’s legacy and, as always, we wish to thank everyone for their continued support.
In October this year, I was delighted to address the Nursing Times Workforce Summit Awards on behalf of the Mary Seacole Trust. Amongst other things, the event highlighted important discussions in workforce planning and management and showcased innovation. We were privileged to be named Charity Partner and grateful for the significant funds raised at the Awards to support our legacy projects, including the maintenance of Mary’s statue.
As I approached the podium to give my talk to the 500 or so guests, I reflected on what Mary might have thought, if she knew that nearly 150 years after her death, her name would resonate across a room filled with such caring and compassionate people. Whilst speaking, I tried to reflect Mary’s values; speaking for young people, speaking for those who have suffered injustice in the workplace, speaking for those caught up in the Windrush scandal or simply those in need of direction or re-direction in life. I spoke of our work, whilst recognising that inspiring young people to believe, only has meaning, if there is not only equality of opportunity but equality of outcome. This is particularly true in the work place.
In addition to our involvement at the Nursing Times Awards, we also gave talks at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Whipps Cross Hospital and, as part of Black History Month, to numerous schools.
We have also been in the media which provided a wonderful opportunity for our Young Seacole Ambassador, Jude Swaby, to speak on Eddie Nestor’s Radio London Drive-Time show. Jude talked about his work with the Mary Seacole Trust and how this enabled him to achieve his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award. We will continue to support other potential young Ambassadors participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme.
'In conversation with' Karen Bonner
In a year in which Great Britain celebrated the centenary of the act of parliament that granted the vote to some women, the 70th year anniversary of the National Health Service and the arrival of the HMS Windrush, I poise to reflect upon how these events have shaped my life.
My parents arrived in UK post Windrush in the late 50’s and 60’s from the West Indian British colonies of Jamaica and Barbados. Enticed by the ‘mother land’s’ offering of work and education they were surprised to learn that as people of colour they were not readily accepted once arriving in the UK, instead they were met with racism, intrigue, curiosity and exclusion. Despite the challenges they faced, my parents lived their lives not as victims of oppression but with the confidence that their contribution to society mattered, which meant that my life mattered too.
My parents raised their children – I was the third of four – with no extended family support, my father worked night shifts and my mum during the day. I admired their work ethic and despite the limited opportunities available to them, they remained positive that the move to the UK was the right one. After all I would not exist, had they not met that day on the street in North West London. Growing up I was mindful of how hard my parents worked, so I was committed to make something meaningful of my life.
My parents encouraged, invigorated and instilled in me the belief that I could do and be whatever I wanted to be as long as I worked hard enough. As a young child I was caring, empathetic, philanthropic and sociable, I decided early what I wanted to do with my life, I would become a nurse. For me nursing was a calling, something I was born to do.
Aged 18, I secured a training place in the local school of nursing. I was given a nursing uniform, a belt and a cape, I was on my way to fulfilling my dream. I didn’t want to just be a good nurse, I wanted to be a ‘great’ nurse, one who practised with compassion and kindness. Learning about Florence Nightingale was inspiring as were my mentors. It was not until some ten years later that I was to learn of a Jamaican nurse called Mary Seacole and her wonderful adventure. Mary looked like me. Learning about this courageous Jamaican nurse was motivating. She was a businesswoman, an entrepreneur. She was a brave and tenacious woman who travelled aged 49 to nurse sick soldiers in the battlefield of the Crimea. Mary overcame many obstacles to aid the sick and dying but she persevered, not unlike my parents.
Immortalising Mary was achieved on the 30th June 2016, when a statue was unveiled in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital opposite the Houses of Parliament, the first statue dedicated to a named black woman in the United Kingdom. I was asked to recruit the nurses who would unveil the statue. This was a memorable day and I was privileged to take part in helping Mary cement her place in history. A symbol of diversity Mary has special significance to me and many nurses from diverse backgrounds and stands as a testament to what can be achieved with persistence, hard work and dedication. Now as a Divisional Director of Nursing at another large NHs Foundation Trust, I remain steadfast to work with compassion; inspiring and leading others to do the same. I have grown up with the National Health Service and I am immensely proud to work alongside my amazing colleagues.
There is an obvious and reported lack of diversity at very senior management level within the NHS
I am passionate about using Mary Seacole’s legacy to inspire current and future generations and to addressing social challenges and inequality. I celebrate that Mary is recognised as a woman who embodies the elements of today’s NHS constitution: bravery, compassion, caring and commitment. These are the qualities I would like to be remembered for.
Mary Seacole Dynamos Football Team
The Mary Seacole Dynamos are exciting the league, under the coaching of Trevor Sterling and Jermaine Sterling. They've made huge strides, by finishing second in the Sutton Mini League and also recently secured a place in the Sutton Mini League Cup Final #seacoleinspired
We have also recently teamed up with Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett and Helpforce to give support to recruiting volunteers from diverse backgrounds into the NHS, providing a pathway to paid employment. In addition, we are collaborating with the Violent Crime Prevention Board to address issues in respect of Gun and Knife crime led by our inspirational Ambassador, Martin Griffiths and Dr. Angela Herbert. These initiatives follow on from our work in relation to the Windrush scandal and more recently, our support for the campaign for Mary Seacole to feature on the proposed new £50 note.
Perhaps our most significant work, has been the commission of an independent Literature Review undertaken by Dr Habib Naqvi. This preceded a roundtable discussion on 22 November 2018, sponsored by Moore Blatch Solicitors, bringing together leaders from private and public sector organisations. The roundtable was aimed at exploring and sharing best practice, identifying issues, successful outcomes and focusing on solutions to achieve diversity in leadership. We will shortly be publishing the Literature Review, together with outcomes and next steps.
Rest assured, during 2019 we will continue to progress exciting initiatives. As part of our Education Programme we have met with the Florence Nightingale Foundation to explore collaboration in respect of their Leadership Scholarships, whilst also supporting the Mary Seacole Awards.
We also look forward to judging the new Mary Seacole Award at the Student Nursing Times Awards in April 2019. The award is open to all students who are currently studying a nursing or midwifery course in the UK, or those who successfully completed their course during 2018. The entry deadline has been extended to Friday 18 January 2019
We will shortly embark on our second Young Seacole Ambassador’s Initiative, and...
watch out for a special “Windrush” twist!
During 2019, we will also be holding a Seacole celebration to mark the third anniversary of the statue unveiling.
If you do visit Mary at St Thomas' Hospital, Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7EH, we would love to hear about your experience.