“Life is about embracing challenges”
Our names are Deidre Scantlebury and Denise Scantlebury-Ojo, we’re sisters from North London with a passion for helping children and supporting families in our local community. We are also key participants in the charity Helping Hands for Glendon and are passionate that everyone has a right to receive adequate healthcare.
Both of us grew up in North London, but our parents were originally from the Caribbean. Our dad was from Barbados and our mum was from Montserrat and they ensured that while we were growing up we knew our Caribbean roots well and kept in close contact with family there. We loved having these family connections and the strongly reinforced sense of belonging we had helped us through some of the racism we experienced growing up. Our community in North London was not as diverse as it is today and so we did encounter a significant amount of racism, but we didn’t let that stop us and our parents constantly reminded us of our strength and beauty.
We had a fantastic family unit growing up, our parents supported anything and everything we wanted to do whether that be bike riding, ballet etc. We both have extremely fond memories of our childhoods, with a home that always truly felt like home. We had quite different ideas of what we wanted to be when we were older. I (Denise) wanted to be a nurse, whereas Deidre wanted to be a secretary or to do something in business. The supportive environment our parents created demonstrated the importance of stability during early years. Our parents were also a source of inspiration to us growing up through their enormous dedication to supporting the local community. In the 70s they set up a nursery, with Afro-Caribbean families in mind particularly, to provide affordable, quality child care to people who needed it most.
For me (Denise), I wanted to become an educational psychologist, I moved away from North London and went to the University of Wolverhampton, where I lived for 3 years. However, my plans changed and I fell in love with teaching. I believe that teaching is a selfless profession, one which requires passion, as teaching isn’t a profession with money at the centre and you have to want to truly make a difference in a child’s life to become a teacher. Therefore, I became a teacher for 20 years, focussing particularly on teaching children with special educational needs.
In my case (Deidre), I lacked a bit of direction during my teenage years and I was unsure of the path I wanted to take. As I said before, I wanted to be a secretary or do something in business but as I began helping out in my parents’ nursery this changed. I started off just helping with the admin side but then I started to become actively involved with the children too and I loved developing relationships with both the children and their families. I began volunteering properly at the nursery and my passion grew and grew, going on to get my diploma, then a management diploma in childcare and then my degree, sharing everything I learnt along the way with my team.
Now both of us work at the nursery, supporting our parents legacy, with myself (Deidre) working as nursery coordinator and Denise working as assistant nursery coordinator and admin. Sadly our dad passed away during the pandemic but our mum is still working for the nursery and is now on the board . We want to continue supporting the community the same way our parents did when it began. We believe that the nursery is about more than just the children and it’s about the whole community. Our parents wanted to advocate for the underdog and that’s what we want to continue to do.
We are also extremely active in the non-profit charity Helping Hands for Glendon, which was set up by 5 committee members, including our parents. During a trip home to Montserrat they noticed how poor medical conditions were there. Glendon hospital, the main hospital on the island, severely lacks necessary medical treatments and equipment such as mammograms, dialysis and C.T. scans and is also situated in a school, which was meant to be temporary but has been the case for 20 years. Therefore to receive any of these treatments residents of Montserrat have to go to the nearest neighbouring island, Antigua, which is a 15 minute flight away. Consequently, suffering any medical emergency, such as a stroke, is already terrifying but even more so on the island of Montserrat because there isn’t sufficient medical care.
Montserrat is an extremely resilient Island, having suffered two major natural disasters fairly recently, hurricane Hugo in 1989 and and the 1995 Volcanic Eruption. Although it is a British colony and receives some funding from the U.K. these already insufficient funds are about to be diminished due to cuts. The main ethos of Helping Hands for Glendon is to help raise awareness and funds to improve hospital equipment, as we believe everyone should have access to sufficient healthcare. This charity is extremely important to us particularly because of our family roots and, although we have already raised the amazing sum of £16,000, we still need to raise more to keep momentum.
Finally, we would like to encourage everyone to follow their own path and surround themselves with a community that supports you and your goals, just like we had growing up. From our fantastic upbringing and family we have learnt how important a positive early years experience is in shaping identity and therefore would like to give this to other children through our work in the nursery. We would also like to encourage people to support Helping Hands for Montserrat because in order to create a positive change proactivity is key.