Member Stories: Ionis Bandele, RN, University of Maryland Prince George’s Medical Center

July 23, 2021

IonisBandeles.jpegAs we close out #CaribbeanHeritageMonth , we’d like you to meet 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East Delegate Ionis Bandele, a Registered Nurse at University of Maryland Prince George’s Medical Center.

Ionis told us, “My family is originally from Trinidad and Tobago. I was born there. My mother and father were also born there. I came to the U.S. when I was 10 years old, so I went to middle school, high school, college in the U.S.”

Ionis explained, “We call ourselves West Indians,” and shared that her heritage is “extremely important to me because the way I was brought up, my mom instilled in us that education was the best thing, our best ally. My mom had a sixth-grade education, but she knew how to read, she knew how to count, she knew how to do math extremely well. And I remember growing up, she would always say to us, ‘I didn’t go to high school, but I want you to do way better than me.’” To that end, Ionis said her mom “pushed us and was very strict because she was a single mom raising 5 children, and she did not believe in what she called idleness. She wanted all her children to be college educated. She did all this working housekeeping at Fairfax Hospital.” All her children, including Ionis, did graduate college.

Ionis explained, “Coming from the islands, a lot of people would consider us poor, but we didn’t consider ourselves poor. We just didn’t have the luxury of our American counterparts.” To Ionis, “Being Caribbean is very important, and I feel like I’m blessed. I’m grateful about how I was raised – with respect and dignity, always work hard, do the best you can, believe in a higher power, and always give back.” She added, “I know what it’s like to be without, and I know what it’s like to have. So, for me it just gives me a great platform to help someone else because I can relate, I can understand what it’s like to be hungry, and I can understand what it’s like to have all the food in the world you can eat.”

Thank you for sharing your story, Ionis!