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Ms Shawn Foster

Shawn Lenaine Foster was born in St Elizabeth, Jamaica in 1970. She first moved to the UK in 1980 and lived in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. The family went back to the Caribbean four years later, but returned shortly afterwards and trained as a nurse in London.

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A Caribbean childhood

With her mother out at work, and her older sisters running the home, the young Shawn escaped her share of the household chores and instead spent her days playing with friends.

She went to church, learnt the Bible stories and was taught that there was more to life than money. Growing up in an extended family meant there were always people looking out for her and yet children were also taught to be independent in mind and spirit.

Coming to the UK as a child

Shawn’s mother had been living in the UK with her English husband for two years when she sent for her two youngest daughters.

Going to Kingston airport was treated as a day out by many people so the children were waved off by lots of their friends and family.

When the British Airways plane landed in the UK, Shawn was so cold in her thin, blue dress that the air steward had to wrap a blanket around her. Fortunately, her mother had brought coats to the airport – very fashionable pink suede coats with fur down the middle.

In the UK, Shawn was bought her very first doll – up to then she’d made her dolls from a banana stalk. Another homemade toy was a ball  – made from bits of wood or elastic bands, depending on the game.

Schooldays in the UK and the Caribbean

At first, Shawn struggled to understand the English accent and new words for everything; however, she quickly settled into school life, helped by her new best friend, Fiona.

Walking to school was no problem – she was used to doing that in Jamaica – and punctuality and good attendance were natural. She didn’t even take a day off school during the bad winter of 1982 when the snow was high on the ground.

When Shawn was fifteen, the family returned to Jamaica where she had to slot back into the island’s education system. It was tough at times, but she adjusted and enjoyed sharing her knowledge of television and technology with her new friends.

Harder to get used to were the strict rules about school uniform, tidy hair and polished shoes.

What Jamaica lacked in education facilities – the children had to buy their own books and carry them to school each day – it made up for by the pupils’ enthusiasm for learning.

Returning to the UK

Shawn decided to return to the UK to finish her education and lived with an uncle and aunt for two years.

After school, she went to London to do her nurse training in Whitechapel. After qualifying, she worked at Newnham General Hospital.

Living in Newport

Shawn’s earliest memory of Newport was travelling across the original Severn Bridge and having to stop and pay the toll, something she found unusual.

The greener parts of Newport reminded her of Jamaica, especially during the summer months: Goldcliff, the lighthouse at St Brides. The air was fresh and town was also much friendlier than London.

She bought a house in Pill, loving the mix of cultures, community spirit and the fact you could leave your front door unlocked.

Shawn has made a life for herself and her family in Newport, yet she still misses the warmth of the Jamaican sun and hopes to return to her Caribbean island one day.

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