A young woman from Tenby who checked out of a career in the hospitality business to become a carer has taken bronze in major national awards.
Shani Escott, 26, began her working life as a bar and restaurant manager at a hotel in the Pembrokeshire seaside town when she was in her teens but, after taking a break to have her first child, realised the life wasn’t for her and that she’d rather be caring for people.
She became a care practitioner at Forest Care Ltd’s Pen-Coed residential home in Saundersfoot where she has won a reputation for being a dedicated and professional member of the team who does her best to ensure people in her care lead an enriched and fulfilling life.
It is this commitment and enthusiasm in her caring role that saw Shani win bronze in the Residential care Practitioner category of the 2017 Wales Care Awards, sponsored by the Older People’s Commissioner.
The event was sponsored by Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs, and the glittering presentation ceremony was held at City Hall in Cardiff hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.
The awards are in association with Care Forum Wales, a not-for-profit organisation set up in 1993 to give independent care providers a single professional voice with which to speak on one of the most important issues of our time – how to provide better quality care for those who need it most.
Shani, who lives in Tenby with her daughter Lucianna, six, and son Mylo, four, was born and raised in the city of Bath across the border in England. She moved with her family to Tenby, where they’d gone for regular summer holidays, at the age of 11.
Leaving Ysgol Greenhill in Tenby at 16, she enrolled on an apprentice at a hotel in the town and while working there studied for a hospitality and customer service qualification.
But, at 19, after taking a maternity break to have first daughter, Shani decided it was time for a radical change of career direction.
She said: “With a young child it was difficult to go on doing split shifts at the hotel and as I’d always wanted to go into the care sector I thought I’d give it a try.
“I got a job as a care officer at Pen-Coed, where my mum is now registered manager, and loved it right away as I see myself as a caring person.
“We have 20 permanent residents, the majority of whom have dementia, and we’re having an extension built for an additional five beds.
“Lots of people dread going to work in the mornings but that’s not how it is with me. I love making people feel happy and special.”
Typical of how Shani goes out of her way to achieve this is the regular programme of visits she arranges for residents to tea dances, pottery groups, swimming pools and jacuzzis.
At the home a big hit all round was the Halloween party she masterminded, inviting local children to play games with the residents. The youngsters were also guests when she ran a Christmas party complete with a real donkey and Santa’s grotto in which Shani helped hand out the presents.
After taking a nutrition and hydration course she organised a healthy afternoon tea for residents at which she and fellow staff appeared in Victorian costume.
Shania said: “For me, it’s all about enriching the lives of residents, making them feel more comfortable and getting them to stay active – and not feeling that life stops just because they’re in a residential home.
“I love organising outings and events and having a laugh and joke with people. I like to tell my children that I look after people because it makes me feel happy and proud.”
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the standard of entries was extremely high.
He added: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.
“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.
“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.
“We take our hats off to them.”