Ward came alone to the United Kingdom from Guyana in 1978. It was hard for
her to be away from her family. “I was very
homesick. Many times I thought,
‘What am I doing here?’ I wanted
to pack my bags and go home,” she says.
Charmaine kept in touch with her family by telephone. She
remained in the UK
and knew that one day her children and her husband, Vernley,
would join her.
Her first job was caring for a family’s children in London. In 1980, she
moved to Cambridge and got a job as a
general helper at a
nursing home. She
has worked there with the
elderly for 17 years.
Charmaine takes the time
to get to know her patients and many have become
like members of her own family: “When
they feel pain, I cry. And when they
die, it’s like I’ve lost a part of my own family.”
Charmaine’s husband joined her in 1979 and the children followed in the
early 1980s. Charmaine always wanted to complete her education but she
decided to postpone her dream for her children. “Parents have to give their
children the best education they can,” she says. “My children’s education
had to come first,” she says.
In 1995, after all four of her children graduated from university, Charmaine
went back to school. She
earned her ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels in a mixture of
evening classes and
distance learning courses
run by the National Extension
College in Cambridge. “Everyone who
has taught me has been so positive and
helpful,” says Charmaine. “The people I’ve met through the programme have
really added a new dimension to my life”.
Charmaine always dreamed of going to university herself. Now she is studying
for a degree in social sciences at the Open University.
Three of her children have
moved to different parts of the country. “I never
wanted them to leave, but I’m not one
to hold them back.” The telephone
keeps her connected: “I try to maintain the
family relationship. I never
want to lose that.”