An Ode to the Carer
Summer of 2008. Arriving in England with all the excitement and expectations of a 21 year old who only had a very vivid "movie-like" imagination of what England would be like. That was all i had to rely on. I had never been overseas before. The furthest i had travelled was to my village of Yasawa-i-rara which to be fair, is a world on its own.
After arriving, I was quickly thrown into the abyss of "job searching".All that talk of the "grass is greener on the other side", quickly became, "The grass is greener where you water it!". I tried for years to become a carer, all to no avail as i did not have enough experience. I then went on to do A LOT of odd jobs to get me through. From mail sorting, cleaning, waitressing and being a steward during those big Football matches. I can safely say, I'VE DONE IT ALL! Well, it actually feels like i have.
I got married a few years later then had my first and second child. I finally became a carer(agency carer) in 2015, a few months after giving birth to my youngest.
Caregiver, carer, support worker, health care assistant. The names are many but the heart of the job is the same and that is, to care for the vulnerable. I sought out this job to the extent i did simply because of the money. Anyone i knew who was caring marvelled at the money that could be had from caring. My understanding of it was very one dimensional. Caring to me basically was looking afer the elderly. That was it! I never understood the intricacies of it and just how much gratitude and love i could have towards this job. The takeaways are infinite. You not only care for different kinds of people in different age groups, you open your eyes to just how unbelievably short and fleeting life is, and that so many things that consumes our hearts and minds are really insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I have had conversations with countless men and women who stress the importance of enjoying life, enjoying your family and cherishing the time you have with your children because "Before you know it, they're gone!" It has been one of the most humbling jobs I've had to do. It really is true, your service to others does become the pinnacle of life, and how you impact those you care for is the most rewarding feeling you could get. Service in this sense, being the most literal form. We take for granted the way our leg carries us, the way we are so free to move our fingers, wrists and all our joints. Care work brings you to the reality of maybe one day losing the use of so many of our body parts we take for granted.
I love being a carer and I am proud of all you women out there who take on this job. You women who walk into those dimly lit rooms at night amidst what seems like the 100th call bell, of the pillow not being right. Propping up bodies and soothing the fears of the dementia patient who thinks she's back in her twenties and is late for the school run. Attending to personal care, listening to recycled stories day in and day out and still acting like youre hearing it for the first time. Following someone up and down the hall just so they're safe. I understand that you return home after every night shift, worn out and sleep deprived, yet you still have enough energy to get all your kids ready and out the door for school before you can have that elusive sleep time. Being constantly woken up by the chimes of the care home call bell still ringing in your ears, then before you know it, its time to pick the school kids again. Its a strenuous job. One that takes a lot out of you physically and emotionally.
It was also a saving grace for us financially, supplementing my husbands income so perfectly, and the old adage of being "one day rich" seemed distant while it lasted. The way it is also flexible, really fits in with a lot of army wives lives. With all the constant postings and moving around, there is always a care job somewhere a family is posted to. And when you're coming from Fiji, with all the hassle of trying to convert qualifications and get a better job, I have seen it's a great place to earn while you better your career opportunities.
Caring is also a gift for the history enthusiast. I cannot recall the number of times I've walked into rooms where I have been absolutely captivated by the black and white pictures on the walls, of women in beautiful tea dresses beside a man in uniform or a suit. I have met so many impressive men and women and my respect for people during the war times just sky rocketed especially after they fondly recall stories of how life was, during those days. I have met women with remarkable tales of how they fought against the status quo. I have met a lady who was a Maths technician for IBM. I have met a mayor and another lady whose husband was a war slave. The tales of their travels and adventures are next to none and when someone hands you his box of postcards from the 1940s, you know you're in history heaven!
Its a job that many would not want to do simply because it's too emotional for them and quite hard to fathom the intensity of some of the illnesses. Some would turn their nose up at it and call it a very low job, to put it plainly. Some would call it a job for those who can't do anything else or aren't qualified to do anything else. I have been the recipient of some careless comments of care work, and have also seen how this job seems to be potrayed so negatively by many BUT in my experience, It is definitely a job I think that one should try if the opportunity ever arises because it teaches you some valuable life long lessons.
I take my hat off to all women who have used their care work foundation to further their studies and career aspects. Some becoming nurses, some becoming managers in their care homes, some becoming supervisors and so on. The amount of things you learn about anatomy and the laws surrounding caring for the vulnerable is just one of the many positives.
So with all that, I can only thank the countless women who take on this job because on so many occasions it is the only choice they have. Women are so amazingly resourceful and they have such an ability to adapt wherever they are and take care of the family so well. I have done shifts with so many Fijian women around the Wiltshire area that it always became a fun night if there were a few of us working in the same building, trying to take breaks at the same time, while all our lunchboxes and "coi ni ti" came out to combat the long night. It was more a group of women who loved and respected each other and it was beautiful to share these moments with my Fijian sisters. At times when I forgot to bring food and there was a Fijian sister in the same building, I knew I would be taken care of and I always saw how loving and kind we are. Thank you to you all who I have brushed shoulders with in any care facility. Thank you for doing this job to better your family, to better your career opportunities. Thank you for using this job as a stepping stone to better things. I wish you all the very best in all you do.
*Unfortunately I do not have any proper pics of myself in the care work environment aka no pictures that aren't selfies. Therefore we're very grateful to the ladies from Brize Norton for sharing their pics in their work environment.
Written by Suli Tuiteci