Barnardo’s launches Windrush Generation oral history project

Members of the Windrush Generation who have links to Barnardo’s are being urged to share their stories as part of an oral history project.

The leading children’s charity has worked across the UK supporting children, young people and families of African Caribbean heritage since the charity began in 1866.

And on Windrush Day (June 22), it started a project to celebrate the impact and achievements of the Windrush Generation and their descendants.

The first people to  share their stories on the oral history project site are Barnardo’s Vice President Baroness Floella Benjamin and former Barnardo’s boy Tony Simpson.

Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham talks about how she came to Britain from Trinidad as a 10-year-old in 1960 and how many of her childhood experiences in the new culture and unbelievably hostile environment were character building and gave her the tools to become the person she is today.

Tony shares his journey from being born in a Salvation Army mother and baby home through to a childhood spent within the Barnardo’s care system.

He talks of the resilience needed to keep himself together, discusses race, as well as the socioeconomic changes that were taking place in Britain at the time. 

His story takes us to the care homes he lived in and he reflects on the skills he acquired in care, which would later enable him to become a senior adviser to some of the world’s leading media and sports organisations.

Barnardo’s is encouraging everyone from the Windrush generation and their descendants, who had or have a connection with Barnardo’s, to share their stories. The connection may include through their family, or as a supporter, volunteer or staff member.

Anyone interested in taking part should visit the Oral History Project site for more information:

Baroness Floella Benjamin said: “I’m really pleased Barnardo’s is running this oral history project, which will celebrate the contribution of the Windrush generation to British society and to this fantastic charity.

​​​​“The Windrush community have played a vital role in building Britain, and this is an opportunity to educate people across the UK about our Black history. 

“I hope my story will help to inspire and encourage Black children and young people growing up today, and help them believe they can become anything they want – including a Chief Executive or the Prime Minister.”

Former Barnardo’s boy Tony Simpson said: “As an Afro-Caribbean child of the 60s, born in a Salvation Army mother and baby home and raised within the Barnardo’s care system, my story is one of hardship, race, resilience and ultimate triumph.

“In sharing my journey I hope to inspire children who are growing up in difficult circumstances to realise they are capable of making the same journey, using their survival tools as a ‘superpower’ – something to cherish and embrace, rather than shy away from.”

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said: “I’m delighted to announce the start of this project, which pays tribute to the Windrush community and its lasting legacy.

“I’m extremely grateful to our Vice President Baroness Floella Benjamin, and former Barnardo’s Boy and now business executive Tony Simpson for sharing their personal histories. These inspiring Black individuals embody Barnardo’s values and are living proof that children can overcome trauma and disadvantage to achieve a brilliant future. ​​​​​

“At a time when as a society we are confronting our historical support for slavery and our present injustices – from entrenched inequality to institutional racism – it is especially important that we recognise the experiences of Black members of the Barnardo’s family.” 

In their oral histories people are asked to consider the key themes of their own personal history, their relationship with Barnardo’s and why they wanted to contribute to this project. 

As well as audio clips, people are able to share images of themselves growing up if they wish – but it is requested they choose photos where they are the only person in the picture.

The stories and photographs will be collated on the oral history website over the coming months. 

Barnardo’s will then be showcasing the stories in a virtual exhibition during Black History Month in October (this exhibition may become a physical one if lockdown measures have been lifted by then).

The project is funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government through the Windrush Day Grant Scheme.


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