If your friends were denouncing a charity appeal as a scam, would you make a donation?
My Page 1 Woman, moved by the plight of a group of Ugandan children, silenced the cynics’ voices, did her homework and made a generous donation to the ‘Divine Care Missions’. Since then, she’s raised funds for it, written three books about it and is negotiating to turn the story into film.
Meet my Page 1 Woman, Linda Wilson, former clinical and forensic psychologist who might have lost out on career success had her potential gone unspotted. ‘A week before the university term I was working in a factory counting screws into bags, when the women in the office called me to meet Counsellor Stella Gundy. She said, "You should be going to uni." I replied, "I'm not good enough." She said, "Nonsense! Find a course and I'll sort the finance." I ended up at Lanchester Polytechnic doing a BA in Applied Social Sciences’.
From there, Linda went on to set up a new service for children and young people in care, before scaling the ranks of the NHS to deputy head of the department of clinical psychology, specialising in child and adolescent mental health. Her work demonstrated her enthusiasm for child protection and therapeutic work with damaged youngsters.
Whilst many retired people are taking it easy, Linda continues to run projects for youngsters, write children’s books and fund raise through activities such as public speaking, proof-reading and re-writes for budding authors and storytelling for the ‘Divine Care Mission’ – clearly determined and unstoppable.
Here she is in her own words.
Describe what you do
Linda: I’m a retired consultant clinical and forensic psychologist. I’m now involved in initiatives for enabling children and young people to build a promising future.
I got involved in the ‘Divine Care Mission’ (for abandoned, orphaned and less privileged Ugandan children), after seeing Steven on a television appeal. People said, ‘Scam; he'll take you for everything’. I'm not totally brain dead. So I spoke to the consultants, the head and deputy head teachers of the school that some of the children attended in Uganda. They said Steven was kosher and people won't help him. His 63 children were desperate, and Joel, aged 3, was in a distressing condition. Joel’s life could be saved for about £50. My sister spends more on her nails and hair.
I sent the money and a bit extra on condition that Steven posted the receipts on Facebook, which he did. People said, ‘You’ll never get rid of him’. I didn't hear more from him for about 12 months. He was struggling to pay school fees for 40 school kids. We'd loaned our boat, to some youngsters for a holiday. So I asked for their help – no obligation. They sent £200 which paid the school fees, and fed the kids.
I decided to communicate more with ‘Divine Care Mission’ in 2017 after my dad died and my husband had heart surgery. I discovered that there's no aid in Uganda for such charities. You have to pay for set up, feeding, clothing and caring for the kids yourself. When Steve told me the story, I said, "The only thing I know is storytelling”. So I wrote book one, ‘A Street Kid Called Steven: From Abandoned Toddler to CEO’. Book two is, ‘Welcome to My World by Steven’. I’ve nearly finished book three, ‘What Next: The Road to Recovery’.
I then contacted an American film company. Wendie Margolis, a producer of ‘Out of Africa’ and ‘The Karate Kid’ reviewed the two books and created a road map to turn the stories into a Hollywood film. I’m now fund-raising to get us to the next stage - screen play development and Steve’s commitment payment. But Wendy has suggested that one of the leads from ‘Black Panther’ could play Steven. All proceeds from the books and film will go to the children in ‘Divine Care Mission’.
When I retired, I bought ‘The Shop at Glasson Dock’, a narrow boat, ‘Graydees’ Dream’ and later the boat hire company, ‘Water Babies’. I'm now in the process of raising funds to commission the new build of a fully accessible canal boat - the Sovereign Lady. Together these facilities will form a canal-based activity centre for disaffected youngsters, with them working in the tea room and learning to set up their own businesses and run service accommodations.
I grew up in a mining community, in a family of six kids. We weren't well off. At aged 13, I met a lovely lad from an orphanage nearby, who wanted to live with my family. When I said he couldn’t, he took his own life. I later learned that he was being abused and was looking for help. This experience still affects me deeply and probably motivated me to do what I do now.
My passion for helping youngsters probably comes from a family belief that we're here to serve. My family did physiotherapy, podiatry, or nursing and I thought “It's messy, I don't like mess.” When working with children and youngsters, you work with the systems around them. It's less messy. I could spend time with youngsters having fantastic conversations because I knew their problems were sitting in the waiting room. These kids needed to learn to manage their parents better. I’ve worked with some horrendous really young kids with so much potential, whose lives were being wasted. Working with them was more rewarding than anything else I’d done.
What essential steps did you take to get to where you are today?
Linda: Whatever you do it’s education, education, education. I’ve the equivalent of a doctorate in clinical psychology, a masters and a degree. Whenever I approach a new task I learn it first.
When I'm talking to young people, it's always ‘I know school is a pain, but it's the best days of your life. Go; get qualified. You’ll learn to think, look outside the box and see opportunities’.
Education has enabled me to think beyond now. I can see a long-term vision and can work out the steps. I sometimes go off on a tangent, but there’s method to my madness. I don't do things randomly although others might think so – like, ‘Why attend property training courses?’ Because I want to make passive income and be free to write children's stories.
I’ve nearly finished my first series of children’s books, called ‘Sally's Sea Side Secrets’. I hope to get it out before the summer ends. Sally starts in Whitby. We learn she's adopted, is Spanish, and knows no English. She has adventures each day, but she can't tell anybody because she doesn't speak English. On day seven you discover another reason she can't tell her secrets; it’s because she's a dog.
What one most significant thing got you into your current position?
Linda: Attending Andy Harrington’s ‘Power to Achieve’. Throughout my career I got promoted because people pushed me, otherwise I would have remained a basic grade psychologist.
During ‘Power to Achieve’ the penny dropped, “I can do these things”. Andy was on stage, and I wasn’t listening because my dead mom and dad, stood there saying "Get this right." And I thought, “I can write, speak and do. I’ve the power to achieve”.
What was the greatest challenge you faced on your journey and how did you overcome it?
Linda: I was my greatest challenge. I lacked self-confidence and self-belief. I carried a chip on my shoulder, believing everybody was better than me. My only problem was being brought up in a mining family. At school, I ended up with kids from white collar families.
I got here because Pamela, my mentor, believed in me. She encouraged me to get experience so I’d know what I could do. It took me to Glenthorne Youth Training Centre for a kitchen assistant job. I ended up as a therapist.
When I applied for clinical training I never thought I’d be accepted. But in my family if you said you’d do something, you did it. So, whilst I felt I wasn’t good enough, I began this trajectory and had to finish it.
I’ve recently gotten more determined to leave a legacy and it’s about repayment. My mom and dad had nothing, but gave us everything. We didn't holiday abroad but we never went without. New friends could come for tea, although feeding six of us wasn’t easy.
What was your greatest lightbulb moment?
Linda: At Christmas 2014, I saw an advert for University of Central Lancashire’s Northern Business Incubator. I thought it could help me achieve what I wanted with the ‘Sovereign Lady’, a fully accessible canal boat that anyone can helm. I wanted youngsters to be engaged in the waterways as no-one else was doing it. If we don't get them engaged in it before we’re too old, I’ll be sitting in my rocking chair doing whatever it is that old folks do. We've got a number of years left to make our mark, so let's make it one that’s enduring.
What resource was most crucial to your success?
Linda: Time. I get a bright idea in thirty seconds and I know what it’ll look like. But knowing how to get there takes longer. Having retired, I’ve time to work through it consistently, and knowing who to bring on board is a premium.
With the shop, I concentrated on skilling up the staff. Now I stand back. When they’ve said, "How many should I order?" I've gone, "Pick a number, order it and see what happens." It's given them the confidence to do stuff they can do and should be doing.
So, now I open at 7:00 a.m., and clear off when they arrive. But I’m still on call. The day’s mine. I’ve time to talk to the documentary maker and the guy setting up the Kick Starter Campaign.
The documentary is about using the ‘Sovereign Lady’, to train people with disabilities to do boating - our tribute to our godson, Tim. Diagnosed, aged eight, with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, they gave him nine years to live. He went into hospital aged 36, with pneumonia; his wife, Andrea, went in at the same time with advanced brain tumor. Tim died in the January and Andrea six weeks later. They never let anything stop them from doing what they wanted to do. If they wanted to go on Safari or swim with dolphins, they did. If Tim could do that, we could make this boat happen.
What do you understand by leadership?
Linda: A key leadership role is to motivate, inspire and support your team. There's no I in the spelling of team. Everyone has a significant contribution to make. The leader helps them recognise, appreciate, develop, and contribute to achieve the objective.
Recently, I've started seeing myself as a leader rather than a manager. I’ve a vision and lead people towards realising it. For example, I took ‘Sovereign Lady’ and grew it. We're now talking about four boats, a marina, many jobs, and many developments in an area desperate for an economy boost with tourism.
Gender hasn’t been an issue for me. I don't feel anybody has demanded more because I'm a woman, but I feel that may come from my career in the female dominated NHS. Any disadvantages I’ve experienced as a woman leader are those that I've imposed upon myself for example, focusing on my incompetence.
What are your top three tips for women who want to be leaders in their field?
Linda: Have courage through conviction. Find what you truly believe in and you’ll see your goal becoming a reality. You’ll develop self-confidence and a willingness to take calculated risks.
Believe in yourself and you can achieve anything. There are so many messages out there about what you can't do. Why should we say we can't develop ‘Sovereign Lady’? Yes, we can. It might take a while but why can't it become real? It's sticking with it, and believing it’ll happen. From the vision of one boat we suddenly knew we could do two.
Be tenacious and patient. Some people might say, "How much would it cost?" It costs what it costs. Whatever we say it cost today, it’ll cost tomorrow, next week, next year, so let's accept it and get on. We’ll stick with it, have patience and do what we can incrementally to build big.
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