Saturday, September 06, 2008

Why we do what we do - don't we?

I have to confess to feeling a bit low over the past few weeks, probably spending so much time visiting a psychiatric unit may ironically have something to do with it! If these places depress me, what on earth impact do they have on those being treated there?

So, yesterday I had a powerful reminder of why I guess we all do what we do. I got off the train at Bedford and met a woman I hadn't seen for at least a couple of years. She was evidently really pleased to see me and told me how she had never forgotten what I did for her when I represented her (as Unison Branch Secretary). She said she had been in real turmoil but after her first meeting with me she felt so positive about the situation, one which we went on to resolve. It reminded me of all the other people I had had the privilege to represent during my term of office, both individually and collectively. Usually on low wages, treated unfairly and or exploited. The worst case was a private care home where the women (who the owner referred to as the "village idiots") were paid below the minimum wage, where a 17 year old was left on her own to care for all the residents overnight, where one woman got an extra 20p an hour to go and do the shopping in her own time, where the fire escape was locked with no key and where one of the women called me in tears one morning to say that when she had called in with gastroenteritis the owner had told her she had to come in or lose her job. When she said that would be putting the residents at risk she was told - we'll just have to take that risk!

So meeting this woman yesterday certainly cheered me up and made me more determined to carry on the fight and seek to be a voice for those who are so often marginalised, exploited or just plain ignored, for whatever reason. It reminded me that whilst a lot of the time we may feel our heads are frequently coming into contact with brick walls.......there are occasions when the bumps and bruises are all worth it!!!

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