A host of dedicated carers have spent their first Christmas nearly 8,000 miles from home after coming to Cumbria to help ease the shortage of home care professionals in the county.
The 10-strong team of health care assistants have travelled from Zimbabwe to work for Workington-based Bellcare. Now they’re looking after people in their own homes across an area from Millom in the south to Carlisle in the north, as well as inside the Lake District National Park.
Cici Moyo and Florence Musekiwa are two of the Zimbabwean carers who have swapped temperatures of 21 degrees for a chilly Cumbrian Winter but they both say they are loving their new home county.
Florence, aged 32, worked in the engineering industry before the Covid-19 pandemic struck and she found herself caring for her poorly mother-in-law. She realised how much she loved doing it and decide to make the change and become a health care assistant.
“I heard how much European countries were struggling to find carers and, after talking it over with my family, we decided we would love an adventure!” she said.
Now she’s living in Wigton with her husband, Phillip Muzondo and their two children Grace, aged seven, and Keanna, aged 4. Phillip is aiming to start work as a bus driver, which was his occupation back in their African homeland, once the children are settled.
“We are loving everything about being here,” added Florence, “though the children keep saying they want to play outside and I keep telling them it’s really cold. They are very excited about being in a new country – and the Cumbrian accents!
“It’s a small community here, it’s very comforting and safe, and brings a very homely feel. Everyone has made us feel very welcome. I’m a very chatty person and I love to hear everyone’s stories and share my stories too.”
Cici worked in environmental health in Zimbabwe, but had always dreamed of being a nurse so she changed careers and became a health care assistant five years ago. She hopes her children, Takudzwa, aged 21, 13-year-old Nigel and five-year-old Robbin will eventually be able to join her in Cumbria too.
“It’s just the best place to raise children,” she says, “There’s low crime and the people here are lovely.”
Both have enjoyed their first British Christmas, though they say it is ver different to back home. Zimbabwe is a predominately Christian country but their celebrations are much more low key, though incredibly warm and thoughtful.
“We don’t exchange gifts like I’m seeing here,” says Cici, “and we only celebrate on Christmas Day. There’s no Boxing Day. We cook special dishes, something that we don’t eat on a daily basis – our staple food is maize so we’ll have some meat and maybe buy a Christmas cake. I’ve been invited to Christmas dinner by one of my English colleagues and I’m eager to try turkey.”
Florence agreed: “On Christmas Day we go to church and then have lunch with the family. People don’t really do gifts – we buy our parents groceries and make sure that they have enough.
“My daughter is colouring in cards for her new school friends and I will get a small tree but I don’t know about turkey!”
The Bellcare team look after elderly residents and people with disabilities, and they also have specially trained staff who have experience in caring for those with dementia. Their responsibilities include personal care and hygiene, but also companionship.