• Safe & Effective
  • Kind & Caring
  • Exceeding Expectation
My Migration Journey
Black History Month: Black History Month logo

My Migration Journey

As part of our celebrations of Black History Month we are inviting staff to share their personal stories of migration to the UK.

We are a country and NHS built on migration. Over 14 per cent of all NHS doctors, nurses and health care staff are from overseas and 22 per cent of our entire NHS workforce are from a BAME background or heritage. 

At RWT, 31 per cent of our Trust workforce is from a Black or Minority Ethnic background or heritage.

We invite you to share your stories of migration to the UK because through a better understanding of one another we can recognise and value our unique contributions, experiences and perspectives.

If you would like to contribute your personal story about migration to the UK please email Balvinder Everitt, Head of Equality Diversity and Inclusion on balvinder.everitt@nhs.net.

Maria Arthur, Head of Governance
Black History Month: Maria Arthur

My name is Maria Arthur, I was born in Trinidad and moved to the UK at the age of 16. Prior to migrating to the UK, the coldest temperatures I had experienced was in a valley area of Caracas Venezuela where temperatures fell to around 15-17 degrees Celsius at night. That’s not too cold you might say.

I arrived in the UK in August 1987 and one of my first memories was a freezing breeze as I stepped out of the aircraft onto the metal steps – as it was the middle of summer I remember pondering whether the cold and windy temperature was due to the airport activity and fully expecting that perhaps away from the aircrafts and runway, I would experience the warmer summer temperatures. I look back with a smile at my naivety, as I began my new experience and education about the reality of UK weather. 

I spent the first year in Stoke on Trent on a steep learning curve about British culture, food, seasonal dress, accents and dialects and the philosophies of British life. It was also at this time that I was introduced to the opportunity of becoming a nurse.

In January 1989, at age 17 and a half, I moved to Chelmsford to begin my nurse training at Broomfield Hospital (Mid Essex School of Nursing). A teenager with just over a year spent in the UK – there was still so much to learn. Instead of going to music concerts and learning to drive, from ages 17 to 20, I was learning the practice of ‘last offices’ on the sad passing of patients; becoming familiar with the human anatomy; working long days in theatres; observing grief from still births and learning to support patients who had been given a life-limiting diagnosis such as cancer.

Having no family close by, and very few family members in the UK, work and colleagues were a huge part of my life. There were many fond memories of birthdays at the hospital social club, as well as the more emotional moments like a shift in Emergency Department when attempts to save the life of a motorcyclist was unfortunately unsuccessful.  

In addition to my training experiences, I was still in the process of learning a new way of life. It was fun and exciting but life was still filled with many quizzical experiences and uncertainty at this point. 

I qualified as a Registered General Nurse at the beginning of 1992 and decided for personal reasons to apply for roles in Wolverhampton. I was successful and commenced working at Harper Miller ward (Orthopaedics) at the Royal Hospital where I again lived in the nurse’s accommodation. I worked as Staff Nurse across Harper Miller and Dartmouth wards for some years before moving over to New Cross Hospital site in the mid-90s for a Senior Staff Nurse post on the Beynon Day Surgery Unit. In 2000, I took up post as Sister at the Beynon Centre. 

I settled quickly in Wolverhampton although the accent was another nugget of learning to add to my list, but everyone was so friendly and adjusting to life in a multicultural city was familiar having grown in a multicultural country. 

Whilst working full time as Sister, I completed my law degree at Wolverhampton University on a part time basis over 4 years. Then for various personal and professional reasons I remained in nursing and became active within the RCN (Royal College of Nursing). I loved the learning opportunities and advocacy aspects of this work and became RCN Lead Steward for the Trust and subsequently Board member for the RCN Regional Board from 2002 – 2006. I was re-elected as Board member for the Black Country in February 2021.

In December 2004, I was nominated by the RCN for a Royal commendation at Buckingham Palace for ‘Services to Health in Promoting Diversity in the Workplace’.

I moved from clinical practice into various roles in Clinical and Corporate Governance in 2002 and was subsequently appointed Head of Governance and Legal Services in April 2009.

I currently work as Head of Governance at the Trust and thoroughly enjoy the role, its challenges and opportunities for growth. I hold fast to my values of hard work, integrity, respect, humility and fairness in whatever space I am in.

There were many things I am proud to say were cultivated in and through my migration adventure, including embracing a new culture, new opportunities and the ability to overcoming struggles like learning a new way of life outside the immediate security of family. These experiences have enriched my life as has the experience of growing up in a country like Trinidad that champions diversity and inclusion so very well. Both these ingredients laid a sound foundation for me to take forward into my life in the UK.

Bhajan Singh Devsi – A Member of the Trust’s Council of Members
Black History Month: Bhajan Singh Devsi

I was born on 26 November 1944, in Alawalpur, a small town with four high schools in Panjab, India. I came to England in 1960 to live with my father, who had previously migrated to the UK from Kenya in 1957.

I did not have any knowledge about the education system in this country and there was no one to guide me. I eventually enrolled at Wulfrun college to study English and a basic course in engineering. The lecturers told me – “if you can write in good English, why do not you speak it as well?” Everyone at the college was white and other boys in my class would not sit with me; as a Sikh they discriminated against me. It was a common fashion for boys back then to wear a cap or a hat, which was removed while in class and hung on a hook. My classmates would complain to the lecturer about me – “why does he not remove my turban?”. He was unable to answer their questions or perhaps he chose not to do so.

Because I was not a fluent speaker of English, it was often assumed that I was not intelligent. However, following examinations which covered mathematics and physics, I scored extremely high marks and the examiner commented: “This boy should be in a higher class.”

I went on to undertake a five-year apprenticeship in engineering which was a common thing in those days for an engineering career. I started visiting a Youth Employment Centre but with my limited English it was difficult to find an employer who would offer me an apprenticeship. It was very demoralising.

Despite the many disappointments, eventually I was able to get an apprenticeship on the conditions that I cut my hair and remove my turban and Kara (a steel bangle). It was devasting to lose my identity and it took me many years to recover it. I faced numerous experiences like this and felt lost in a strange country. In addition to this, there was overt racial harassment and derogatory remarks about my colour and turban at societal level from white people.

Black History Month: Bhajan Singh Devsi (younger)

Race relations were poor - signs outside lodgings reading "No dogs, no Irish, no coloureds" were not uncommon, which led to overcrowding living. People were refused services in shops solely because of their race or the colour of their skin. Majority of the pubs and clubs were ‘white only’ with Indians, Pakistanis and Jamaican denied access. Basic human rights were infringed in all walks of life from employment to socialisation. This obnoxious treatment of people based on colour and race was against the Human Rights Charter of United Nations written on 10 December 1948, which United Kingdom also signed to comply with. Similarly, five years later in 1953, the UK also signed the European Convention on human rights. Following many protests and riots, the Race Relations Act 1976 was established by the Parliament to prevent discrimination on the grounds of race.

Although I was faced with obstacles along the way, I went on to spend 20 years in the engineering industry, from Engineering Apprentice to a Senior Projects Manager. During this time, I also obtained two post-graduate qualifications in Manufacturing Management and Business Administration The last company I worked for was GKN Group Technological Centre in Wolverhampton.

I left industry in 1982 and worked as a Unit Director / Senior Lecturer for seven years in a college of Further Education. I later became a free-lance consultant for further seven years. During this time, I provided training and consultancy in the field of race equality (Equal Opportunity) to public, private and voluntary sectors. The main objective of this service was to redress the imbalance and under representation of minority ethnic communities in employment and service provision.

I joined what was Wolverhampton Health Care Trust in February 1996, later known as Wolverhampton Primary Care Trust (PCT). I retired from Wolverhampton City Primary Care NHS Trust in 2010 after 14 years. During this period, I provided advice and training in the field of Equality and Cultural Diversity to staff in all Black Country NHS trusts.

I am very pleased and acknowledge the progress that has been made over the years in race relations.  We are proud of our city which has changed into an exemplary multi-racial, multi-faith, multi-lingual, cohesive and harmonious society, not through legislation alone but education in schools and institutions.

I had always been a very active community member, providing leadership and guidance in roles such as:

  • Hon. Secretary OF Dudley Race Equality Council (1982 - 1990)
  • Member OF Wolverhampton Community Health Council (1996 - 2000)
  • Chairperson, Asian Health Forum (1998 - 2001)
  • Chairperson Wolverhampton Race Equality Council (2000 -2003)
  • Chairperson Wolverhampton Partners Against Racial Harassment (1998 - 2003)
  • Parent Governor at Colton Hills Community School (1989 - 2002)
  • Chairperson BME United Ltd - (Oct. 2000 - Present)
  • Independent Member of the West Midland Police Authority (1999 to 2007)

For this work I received the Hind Rattan Award in 2003 – this is one of the highest awards granted annually to non-resident persons of Indian origin in recognition of their outstanding services, achievements, and contributions in their respective fields. It is awarded by the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) Welfare Society to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community.

I also received a Glory of India Award in 2008 – this was awarded by the India International Friendship Society to celebrate the efforts

Ravi Goyal, Clinical Volunteer
Black History Month: Ravi Goyal

I am from New Delhi, India. I am from Hindu background. We celebrate festivals like Diwali, Holi and dussehra. My family and I moved here in 2019.

Here I joined adult education to learn English language. I wanted to be a part of the community, so I joined the NHS to help me understand the people and culture here.

It’s very important to celebrate Black History Month because this is how people would know more about the Black, Ethnic and Minority community and the difference they made and have been making to the community here.

A Teaching Trust of the University of Birmingham