A woman of substance

Baeti Mothobi, Service User/Carer Governor

She is a carer – her son is an Oxleas service user. She escaped the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. She is an elected governor of the trust and sits on the User Carer Council. She is without doubt a woman of substance.

Baeti Mothobi was born in 1942 to parents from Botswana, her home was close to the border with Zimbabwe. She first came to the UK when she was 22, to take up a job in midwifery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. But she always had a hankering to go back to Africa and put her healthcare skills to good use there. With that in mind she took up a London post where she learned about tropical diseases.

In 1982 she went back to Africa to work in Zimbabwe. She said: “I also wanted to give my then teenage son a good education. Back then Zimbabwe’s education system was very good. I wanted to give him a better chance.”

Over a period of 20 years Baeti built a fine career in Zimbabwe, rising to the position of Chief of Health Education. However, as the administration became increasingly corrupt, Baeti found it harder and harder to function. In her own words she had a “disagreement with the government”. As a result she lost her job and had her passports taken away.

A divorcee, Baeti had to find a way to bring home the bacon. She said: “I worked with my hands for a few years: sewing, knitting crocheting. Whatever was required.”

About this time Aids was making a big impact in Africa. Baeti again: “I dabbled in the insurance industry for a while to try and offer life cover to those under threat.”

Then in 2003 she had a letter from the UK about her pension entitlements. She decided to visit the British High Commission in a bid to get travel documents and a passport, which she successfully did. After selling up in Zimbabwe she returned to Britain and now lives in Belvedere.

Baeti became a Governor at Oxleas three years ago. She said: “My role as a Governor entails influencing policy and also making sure that the trust is accountable for everything that it does. One of my motivations for becoming a Governor is that I believe that unless you are involved you can’t know what is going on.”

She went on: “The User Carer Council (UCC) plays an important role. We visit acute wards and other facilities and look at how staff work with clients. We inspect the general conditions of wards: the food, the hygiene, the bathrooms etc. Are there paper towels in the toilets? Is there soap? What does the place smell like?”

Recent visits have been to Oxleas House, Ferryview, Woodlands, Green Parks House and The Memorial. Generally Baeti is impressed with trust premises and staff. One of the things that she said stands out most is Oxleas attitude to carers. She said: “I have found that trust staff are talking less and listening more. I am impressed that the trust has statistics about complaints and that it is going out of its way to actually address complaints.

“It is good to see UCC observations are being acted upon. Recently we commented upon the diet and presentation of food. It has since improved. That sort of listening is so important.

“Between 2004 and 2009 the changes have been marked. I put a lot of this down to the leadership of Chair, Dave Mellish, a man who is comfortable in any situation or company and Chief Executive, Stephen Firn. They have both had a big influence and helped make positive changes.”

However, not everything in the Oxleas garden is rosy according to Baeti. A few experiences have left her somewhat underwhelmed. Like the time she and another Governor turned up to inspect facilities at a major Oxleas building. Baeti takes up the story: “Staff were rude and abrupt in the reception area. We were treated terribly. They virtually ignored us.” 

On a positive note Baeti said the trust is performing well. She said: “Personally, I have noticed the change in my own son. He has responded well to being treated like an ordinary person. Oxleas is making improvements in service delivery. Institutions like the Carers’ Forum have helped so much. We (carers) are now listened to and catered for. Before there was nobody to listen to our concerns, but now there is and our voice is being heard.

“You get the feeling that the trust is a caring organisation that works hard to treat and prevent mental illness in families.”  

Published on 1st June 2009