Mariama Seray-Wurie is a nurse from Sierra Leone. She arrived in the UK at 17 years old to complete her education. In her interview, Mariama discusses what motivated her to work in healthcare and her experiences in training. She describes the discrimination she faced not only from patients but also on an institutional level within the NHS. Mariama also shares important advice for black British nurses working today.
I was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone. That’s in West Africa. I’ve had two arrivals because I came I think first at the age of 2, 2 and a half and then I returned to Sierra Leone at the age of 8 and I came back to the U.K. at the age of 17. As a teenager, no my intention was I that once I had finished my studies that I would go back home and I did actually go back home. But I came back (laughs).
My parents returned here to study because my dad was a doctor so he came here to specialised. My mum was also a nurse and a midwife and she obviously just came with him but in her time her she did carry on working so that is the reason why we returned. And I think the intention was that we would have gone back home anyway once my dad had finished his studies but unfortunately my dad died after he had just qualified as a surgeon and my mum then made the decision for us to go back to Sierra Leone because there was better family support.
But it was kind of like the norm in Sierra Leone, same with people of my age group if when you finished your education or schooling you would either go to university in Sierra Leone and either come here and do post-graduate studies or if you had the opportunity to come after school so that's the reason why I came back when I was 17 was to continue along with my education. And that again was my parents' choice so I didn't kind of like have a choice in that matter. And it was a matter of ‘well when you finish your studies you can choose what you want to do, and if you want to come back home then you can do and if you want to carry on living in the UK you can do’.
Growing up in the ‘70s, we were the only black family in the street that I lived. I was, myself and my brother, were the only black children at school that we went to. It was just myself and my brother and two other children that were Indian in the school so it was very different. But then I think as a child growing up you don't really think of things like that, I was aware that sometimes people would call you names, and you'd know that you were different. But all in all, it wasn't really that bad. It wasn't that bad where we lived apart from being the only black family, but I suppose, would I say social status? Because of the background and where my family were from we were sort of well respected so we just kind of integrated into the neighbourhood.