Young Seacole Ambassadors' Initiative 2018
Thursday 28th June 2018 was a landmark day for the Mary Seacole Trust. The board of trustees, together with our patrons and esteemed guests, gathered for a reception at the House of Lords to announce the winner of the inaugural Young Seacole Ambassador initiative.
The day was special in more ways than one as it was also marking the second anniversary of the unveiling of the statue of Mary Seacole in the gardens of St Thomas’ Hospital.
The competition was to encourage primary school children to recognise and embrace Mary Seacole’s qualities by identifying their ‘modern day Seacole’. Our philosophy is that Mary is still relevant today because the qualities that she demonstrated are some of the key principles that affect us in this modern era.
The competition was open to children in years 5 and 6 from schools across the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. The 75 entries received (from 9 schools) was of a very high standard, incorporating stories, poetry and art. Four external and 2 internal judges had the challenging task of selecting 10 entries to go on to the shortlist, which was then considered by each MST trustee in order to find our first Young Seacole Ambassador. To say that the quality of entries was of a similar high level is an understatement, as a second and third place could not be determined, 3 entries all sharing the same score were awarded runner up places.
The success of this, our first, YSA initiative has further confirmed the importance of the Mary Seacole education legacy, where young people are encouraged to look for and demonstrate acts of compassion, consistency, determination, entrepreneurialism and resilience, to name a few. Next year we plan to invite schools in more London boroughs to take part in the competition, with the aim of making this a national event over the coming years.
The feedback from the participating schools has been encouraging, one teacher said: “Thank you so much for a wonderful evening - one neither the children nor the teachers will ever forget.
‘We’d love to take part again next year.”
The success of this year’s competition has been possible due to the support of many, and we would like to thank, Guy's and St Thomas’ Charity
Lord Clive Soley
Dame Elizabeth Anionwu
Special Thanks to:
The Mayor Of Lambeth, Cllr Wellbelove
The House of Lords team
Jada Katie Marsh
Our Baton Holders:
Moore Blatch Solicitors
Partners in Costs
Diversity in Leadership Programme
The Trust will aim to build an alliance between private and public sector organisations with a particular emphasis on supporting the NHS. MST will organise a ‘round table’ event to explore and share best practice in developing diversity in leadership initiatives, both in terms of identifying the issues and looking at successful outcomes. This work will be carried out in collaboration with NHS England, in recognition of the significant BME health service workforce and their concerns.
Partnership with the military is a core element of the Trust’s programmes, promoting Mary Seacole’s links with nursing and the military.
We're currently redeveloping our website. The new website will also serve as a gateway for those across all generations to access information about Mary’s life and legacy, browse relevant news articles and keep up to date with activities associated with the Trust’s programmes. When the new website is ready, we'll let you know
'In conversation with' Lisa Rodrigues CBE
In 1973, aged 18, I joined the NHS. My first job was at a learning disability hospital. It was a backwater for vulnerable patients. And for staff, 50% of whom were black, Asian or from other ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds. Since its inception, the NHS has recruited internationally to meet staff shortages in less popular parts of the service. I made friends with nurses from Ghana, Nigeria, the Philippines, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
Three months later, I left my new friends to start nurse training at the prestigious Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street (GOS). Here, things were different. Of the 150 student nurses who started in 1973, all of us were female, most were middle-class, and everyone was white.
There were BAME staff at GOS. They worked in the kitchens and cleaned the wards. They served us in the canteen. There were a handful of black nursing assistants, and the occasional agency nurse. And there were black pupil nurses, doing a shorter, less academic course than ours, to eventually become State Enrolled Nurses, a second-class role which precluded them from promotion to becoming a staff nurse or sister.
This is not a criticism of my alma mater, by the way. Things were the same across most London teaching hospitals.
Forty one years later, we discovered that not much had changed. In March 2014, the year I retired from the NHS, Roger Kline published his excoriating Snowy White Peaks report. We learned that whilst 70% of the NHS workforce was female, and 20% BAME (30% BAME among nurses, and 40% BAME among doctors), the top of the NHS was almost totally white and predominantly male.
This stinks. It is institutional sexism and racism. I have written before about how Mary Seacole can help us challenge such shocking stigma and discrimination.
On Thursday 29 June 2016, 1 year minus a day since Mary’s beautiful statue was unveiled outside St Thomas’ Hospital, we launched the Mary Seacole Trust at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton. Our aim is to use Mary’s legacy – compassion, creativity, dynamism, entrepreneurship and most of all, never giving up – to inspire people of all ages to achieve their best in whatever walk of life they choose.
But when I was asked by our chair, Trevor Sterling (who left school at 16, yet is now a renowned lawyer and partner in a prestigious law firm plus one of the funniest, nicest and most effective people I have ever met) if I would be the new charity’s vice chair, I had to think hard. I felt the need to challenge myself about whether such an honour was deserved. I have had my share of difficult experiences, but I have not experienced racism. White people like me must take care to avoid cultural misappropriation. We must watch our privilege.
So I talked to my BAME friends, including some of the other trustees. And they said this. They reminded me that we are all members of the human race, brothers and sisters under the skin. And they welcomed my support because making sure everyone achieves their best is not just their fight. It is our fight.
So I said yes. I promise them and all of you to use my talents, such as they are, plus my experience and connections to help inspire people of all ages to achieve their best, based on merit, passion and hard work. Not what school they went to, who their parents were or the colour of their skin.
Just like Mary Seacole. Mary fought many fights. She never gave up. And nor shall we.