She Found Her Voice – Celebrating an Ordinary, Extraordinary Woman With Jenny Burrett & Mandi

As a nurse, counsellor, mum, wife, daughter, friend, Mandi is a woman of the community who has belonged to various local clubs and groups over the years. Having seen and met many people in her 85 (and counting) years of life, she values community enormously, and is a great example of what it means to belong and contribute to various communities simultaneously. During lockdown, I decided to use Mum’s diaries spanning the past 70+ years to celebrate her, share the life of this ordinary, extraordinary woman, and explore how she found her voice over the years.

More than 30 years ago, Mandi moved to the local area and quickly integrated herself into the community. Although her occupation as a nurse meant she was well placed to interact with locals, that wasn’t enough for her, so she attended numerous street parties in the area, joined St Mary’s Church (which she’s still a part of to date,) Senior Wives Wimbledon, and began forming relationships with people that she’s still good friends with today. As a generous, kind, and giving woman, Mandi welcomes anyone, and will do anything for anyone unless they’re pushing their luck!

This October, at Wimbledon Library, we hosted an Author event in collaboration with Wimblecomm’s 75 Stories where we dived into many a story from Mandi’s life. Attendees learnt that getting to know people comes at ease for Mandi, (or at least she made it seem that way,) and it was something that she genuinely enjoyed. Mandi brought along a selection of her diaries from over the years, which featured pictures, her infamous quotes, and some of her innermost feelings. Through conversation, some well posed questions, and these diary entries, we all started to gain a deeper understanding of how much people and the community contribute to a life like Mandi’s – one filled with love, joy, and care.

Mandi’s practice of keeping diaries meant that years down the line, I was able to share and celebrate Mandi’s real story with the family and now the world. It truly was a fantastic lockdown project to work on with Mum and gave me a real opportunity to celebrate a woman who has poured so much love, care, and wisdom into me and others throughout her life.

When asked what it means to have her story published, Mandi added the following.

“Jen felt that I had a story that would help and support others that was about resilience and adaptability, a positive approach and fun. If I could help others, even if it was just making them laugh, then I was up for it. There are a lot of tough times in there too, death and other forms of loss and change and It’s about coming through purposefully, positively and with a sense of humour. Community and family are huge in getting through.”

With a life spanning World War II through to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mandi’s story is an insightful one that helps us to explore themes such as overcoming dyslexia and low self-esteem, moving beyond society’s expectations for women, and finding your own voice. Mandi spent much of her life as a counsellor working with people’s mental wellbeing long before it was talked about so openly and sees the current focus on mental wellbeing as a positive step in the right direction. Given that these topics are still relevant today, we donated copies of She Found Her Voice to Merton Libraries to allow people in our local community to access the book for free, continue these important conversations, and read about real life experiences of them. To continue to empower people further afield, £1 is donated to International Medical Corps with each copy of the book that is sold, so there is a real sense of giving back attached to every aspect of this book.

With writing and authorship being important aspects of community hub Wimblecomm, we were thrilled to be involved in 75 Stories this year. As part of Wimbledon Community Association’s 75th anniversary, this project is seeing the charity collaborate with its members to create a snapshot of their story and champion what they do. Without them and their story, Wimblecomm and the WCA could not fulfil its mission to connect people, places, and passions, so we hope that this She Found Her Voice story will inspire more people to share their stories and continue to write with real purpose.

Attendees that joined us for the physical event at Wimbledon Library on Thursday 21st October 2021 stated the following after the event. “We’ve been to lots of events like this, and this has been the best.” “I thought there’d be more people, you should do it again.” We’d like to finish this story by thanking them for their contributions on the night, and their heart-warming comments which reinforced the importance of sharing our stories.

Story submitted by WCA Trustee Jenny Burrett, her Mum Mandi, and Genevieve Etienne-Farrell

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