I first decided that I’d like to work in care when I was injured in Afghanistan and carers were looking after me. Without them I wouldn’t be back on my feet.
I served 12 years in the British army and was a private in the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. In 2009 a rocket-propelled grenade exploded next to me, injuring my left knee and right ankle. I was unconscious and when I came around, I was lying on my back looking up at the sky. I thought I was dreaming; I didn’t know I was injured. I tried to stand up and I couldn’t. During the next two years I had four operations and spent time at a rehabilitation centre for injured members of the British Armed Forces.
After I left the military, I decided it was time to give back to the community. As a Care Assistant I feel I’m doing that now, and for me that’s very important.
I’ve always been a caring person. Before I left Fiji, I helped to care for my grandfather in the family home.
When I was in the army, I always made sure my team were ok. In 2004 I was in Iraq, in the company commander’s vehicle when we were in an ambush. I was his gunner. My crew were injured including my company commander. When we were under fire I had to climb out of the vehicle and get him back in and I gave him first aid while we were being shot at.
In 2014, after I left the military, I joined Bluebird Care as a Care Assistant. I was promoted to Senior, and then to Community Team Lead. I make sure my team have everything they need and I also mentor staff and support new Care Assistants who join us.
I’m 39 with no kids, so work is my life. Sometimes I’ll work more than 60 hours a week, starting at 7am and finishing at 10pm. I’ve learnt to be flexible and go with the flow. I tell the office: ‘Whenever you need me, just let me know.’ Sometimes, if I’m free, I’ll happily work on my days off.
I have level 2 and level 3 qualifications in health and social care, and I’ve also completed dementia and end of life training. I enjoy learning and I’ve learnt so many things from my customers. Every day I learn something new.
I also feel like I’ve broken down the barriers that some customers may have about having a male Care Assistant. Many of our customers are ladies, and the initial meeting can be quite daunting for them. However, I get to know them; I hear their stories and they hear mine. Sometimes there’s a mutual connection; their husband may have served in the military and when they hear I did too, there’s a bond there. I really enjoy getting to know my customers and their families.
It’s very important to me to treat my customers with respect and dignity. I talk to them and tell them: “I’m here for you.”
It’s also important for them to stay in their own home. Maybe it has been their family home ever since they were young. It reminds them of their family, their past, they know where everything is. It’s familiar and its somewhere they feel safe.
I always make sure my job is done to the best of my ability. When I come home, I normally sit and review my day and I feel like I’ve done something worthwhile.
Every now and then I sing songs to my customers, such as: “You are my sunshine.” I sing to them because it gives them a lift, makes them smile and takes their mind off things. Most of them live on their own and really enjoy the company.
The people I look after feel like family to me. I ask myself: “If this was my grandma or grandpa, how would I want them to be treated?”
Not long after I started working with Bluebird Care, I met Joe. He was a teenager, he had muscular dystrophy and was in a wheelchair. Initially he was quiet and a little apprehensive, but as we got to know each other we became great friends. He was an amazing young man. He loved life and was a very caring person. We’d watch movies together and talk about the films we’d watched. He loved gardening and he liked Lego and cars. It was just amazing being with Joe.
There were a few nights when he couldn’t sleep, and we’d just sit, and chat and I’d reassure him. “I’m here for however long you want me and need me,” I told him. I was at his side right to the end and I was able to say goodbye to him. I read a bible verse at his funeral. When he passed away it broke my heart. Joe was like my little brother.
I think I’m in the best job for me and I’d definitely encourage other people to become carers. I want to say a massive thank you to Bluebird Care for opening the door to me and giving me the opportunity to work with them.
In 2022 I was named UK Care Assistant of the Year for Bluebird Care. I was speechless. I honestly felt that all my colleagues, the 9,000 Care Assistants for Bluebird Care, deserved the award, not only me.
I love my job. I like to see the smiles on the faces of my customers and for me that’s the biggest reward of all.