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‘Ida James didn’t work for the system she was the system’

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The outpouring of grief over the violent end that befell trailblazing social worker, Ida James is overwhelming. It has been especially pronounced amongst the professional social workers who, meeting informally just hours after news peaked that she was murdered in her home in Paget, paid tribute to her legacy as “Bermuda’s pioneering social worker” and as an “unsung hero.”. Seven social workers instantly went on record stating they will always have fond memories of time spent working and sharing with Ms. James. They were Dr Sharon Apopa, the Executive Director of the Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute (MAWI), Mrs Gina Hurst Maybury, Mrs Marilyn (Peggy) Jackson, Mrs Olga Scott, Mrs Miriam Shaya King, Ms Donna Trott and Mrs Lauren Trott Mrs. Scott, wife of former Premier Alex Scott, and retired Executive Director of Teen Services and later Director of Financial Assistance, noted:. “Ida was a pioneer, a pacesetter, a trailblazer for the development of social work in Bermuda.” Prior to the return to Bermuda of Ms. James, professional social workers were recruited from the United Kingdom. Many Bermudians had functioned in the role of social worker, but Ida was the first qualified Bermudian social worker, stated Mrs. Scott. She added, “Ida was a founding member of the Bermuda Social Workers’ Association. She remained involved in the evolution of the social work council for over twenty-five years. “Whether it was foster care, residential care, age concerns or social assistance, Ida was able to operate in excellence. “Her life was so impactful, Mrs. Scott noted, “that social workers from the early days have been calling to express how affected they had been by the news of her passing,” Dr Apopa hailed Ms James as a great mentor. She declared, “Many people including me owe their success to Ida’s helpfulness. Ida James was a role model and advocate for newly credentialed social workers. I can recall the many nuggets she shared with me about how to put theory into practice in Bermuda. “Ida was eclectic and brought an integrated approach to service delivery. Ida’s ability to remain objective was above average. She was the epitome of contradictions. She was very social but private, very open yet confidential, very giving yet frugal, very assertive yet very humble. Mrs Lauren Trott said: “Ida embodied and introduced Bermudians to the core principles of social work. This was evidenced by her advocacy, competence, enhancement of human well-being and integrity. Ida possessed a vision and purpose for her life that she followed with a sense of urgency.” To Mrs. Peggy Jackson, “Ida was passionate about her job, she championed the cause of her clients and was their strongest advocate:. Ms. Donna Trott felt: “Even before social work was fully developed in Bermuda, Ida was the ‘gold standard’ for social work. “ Ms Trott shared the view of her colleagues that “Ida was the icon for ‘thinking outside of the b ox’ ” long before the term became an adage. She was very adaptable and even knew how to turn a lunch wagon into ‘a confidential office’. She was most resourceful and carried everything that anyone needed in the back of her car. “Ida always had a way of connecting with people and showing that she cared with just a glance. She embraced everyone, making them feel special.” Peggy Jackson said: “Ida was a good team player and colleague. “Ida had a strong sense of integrity, she was very genuine in her approach to her practice, and she was sincere. She believed in continuous upgrade and would travel to as many conferences as she could.” Mrs Gina Hurst-Maybury said Ida was concerned about the total person, spiritually, biologically and psychologically. “She will be fondly remembered for her advice on the benefits of using garlic! Compassion was an innate part of Ida, which became a driving force behind her career change from nurse to social worker. Ida was a great historian and was able to draw mental genograms before they were ever written in a book.” Miriam Shiva-King stated: “Ida was an angel. Those she touched she changed. Her mission was to empower people to become self sufficient. “She believed in teaching them a skill so that they became self actualised. Ida was very creative and one time taught a client how to make jewellery. The client went on to own their own jewelry business.” Continuing, she said: “Ida came from a generation when opportunities for women were limited to careers like nursing, teaching and social work. Had she been born in today’s times, her knowledge and understanding of people would probably have driven her to become a psychiatrist.” The group felt Ida James told the truth whether one wanted to hear it or not. Although Ida never became a biological mother, she had several children across the Island. She was an unwavering, fearless change agent. She operated from a place of humility that was uncommon to see with someone of her caliber. Ida did not work for the system, they said. She was the system. Many social services departments were established based on Ida’s intellectual properties. And the grieving professionals declared an archive of social information has passed on with the departure of Ida from this world.

The late Ida James
Sharon Apopa
Olga Scott