The legacy and values of Victorian nurse Mary Seacole are to be promoted through a new charity launched in London last night.
The Mary Seacole Trust officially begins its work one year after a statue of the nurse – the first in the UK of a named black woman – was unveiled at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
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Campaigners behind the fundraising for the statute last year set up the new charity with the aim of educating the public about Ms Seacole’s life and achievements, to ensure maintenance of the public memorial in the garden of the hospital and to promote her as a role model.
In addition, the charity aims to “campaign for fairness and equality, promoting diverse leadership in private and public service, including, although not limited to, the NHS in the UK”.
It will begin with two major programmes, focussing on education and diversity in leadership funded through a £50,000 education legacy grant, awarded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.
“The Mary Seacole Trust is well placed to ensure that Mary and all she stands for can inspire current and future generations”
The leadership programme will see a series of events, with both private and public sector organisations, to discuss best practice in developing diversity, in collaboration with England’s chief nursing officer, Jane Cummings.
Partnership with the military will also form a “core” part of fundraising projects, said the charity.
Ms Seacole, a nurse of Jamaican and Scottish heritage, travelled to the Crimea in 1855 and set up the British Hotel to provide meals for soldiers as well as a dispensary for those who were sick or wounded.
The first organisation to be involved in this part of the work by raising money will be Bush & Company, a provider of specialist medico-legal and rehabilitation expertise to insurance companies and solicitors, working with people who have sustained serious or catastrophic injuries.
Trevor Sterling, chair of the Mary Seacole Trust, noted the range of organisations that had provided donations to the statue from across sectors including the NHS, the military, the arts and politics.
“While the statue is important in symbolising and recognising Mary’s contribution, there is now an opportunity and responsibility to harness this unprecedented diversity of support to create a legacy beyond the statue,” he said.
“Mary fought to overcome barriers that could easily have prevented her from going to the Crimea and providing the care that soldiers so desperately needed.
“She was recognised for her courage and caring skills at the time – by military leaders and the royal family - but she was then lost to history for more than 100 years,” he said.
“The Mary Seacole Trust is well placed to ensure that Mary and all she stands for can inspire current and future generations, encouraging people of all ages to embody Mary’s qualities: hard work, compassion, entrepreneurialism and caring,” he added.