The first group of nurses from the Philippines to have made the move to Teesside as part of our nursing recruitment drive 20 years ago have marked the special anniversary.
The group moved to North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust in the winter of 2002 as part of a wider national drive to recruit nurses from overseas.
Many of the 52 nurses involved gathered at a reunion event at Wynyard Hall to celebrate the move and achievements.
Mercy Cabrega, now a ward matron in the haematology day unit and anticoagulation, and Gerwin Premarion who is an advanced clinical practitioner in emergency care, both organised and hosted the event.
Mercy said: “I remember arriving here so clearly – it was winter season and everything was dark and gloomy!
“We all soon saw snow for the very first time. We spent lots of time looking for places with rice and all we seemed to find was potatoes. verything was so different.
“But above all else, what we really remember was how friendly and helpful people were.
“Most of the first group who came to the Trust are still here, that says everything. We have been supported by people here since the very beginning and are extremely loyal to the organisation.
“I now help with training the new nurses from the Philippines and India and tell them ‘I was in your seat 20 years ago and I hope you will be in my place 20 from now’.
“We have all really taken to living in the area and being part of the community. We have had families here and it is our home.”
“Professional, dedicated, loyal and caring”
The event included some of the original staff members involved in welcoming the first cohort – including now retired associate directors of nursing Barbara Carr and Lesley Wharton and Jean Angus and Colin Slater from the nursing education team.
Jean Angus, head of nursing education, who was invited by the group as a VIP, said: “Our recruitment of nurses from the Philippines has been very successful. They are very professional, dedicated, loyal and caring nurses who have made a huge and valuable impact.
“We are now seeing the sons and daughters of our original group also joining the Trust as nurses or in other roles.
“There is an extensive Filipino community in the area now – who are all very supportive to each other.
“The celebration evening included a presentation with photographs of the cohorts arriving in the UK, seeing snow for the first time and enjoying the social life of the North East.
“It was an absolutely brilliant night. And as VIPs we were treat like royalty and felt really privileged to be invited.”