In part two of 20 years of international student guardianship, I am reminiscing about people. I have worked with so many amazing people in my career and I am mentioning just some of them here without whom I could not have built up Bright World and our boarding school and guardianship service. I am pleased to say I am still in touch with all of them.
I had worked in the education industry for 10 years when I set up Bright World. When I left my job at Study Group on 22nd September 2000, I worked alone for two years, doing some consultancy work to pay the bills and gradually building up Bright World. My aim was to find UK boarding schools who were willing to work with me as an agent and to find agents who were willing to work with me on placing their students into schools. I also knew about guardianship and the fact that when placed into a school, students, and their parents, needed a UK-based representative who would act in an emergency and look after them during exeat weekends and half terms. I started building up contacts so I could offer guardianship as well. A person who I remember helped me greatly and always treated me with such respect was Jeremy Tomlinson. He was the Registrar at Lancing College nearby to my home. He, along with a lady called Jane Gallie at Priors Field School in Surrey were the first people to really take me seriously and offer me an agency agreement. The picture is me and Jane this year. Jane is now the Registrar of the prestigious Cranleigh School and I am delighted we are still working together with Bright World offering guardianship to several students there.
Once I had a decent portfolio of schools and a brochure printed, I went to Hong Kong. I had heard that Hong Kong was the biggest single contributor of students to UK boarding schools. It was on this trip that I met Jimmy Wong, now CEO of Hong Kong Overseas Studies Centre. I couldn’t believe my ears when he told me that he wanted to use my placement service for ALL his boarding school students. He helped me set up a working agreement structure and introduced me to all of his staff. We still work together all these years later and over those years he has introduced me to so many contacts, always such a great supporter of Bright World and always such a professional with solid business ethics. Since meeting Jimmy, Bright World has successfully placed thousands of students into the UK boarding school system from around the world, not just Hong Kong. Here we are back in the early 2000's in Jimmy's office in Kowloon.
My first students were Lori Liu and Pheonix Zhang who attended Royal School, Haslemere. They said I was the best guardian in the world which was very sweet and made me realise that by being a guardian and offering independent support and visiting them on behalf of their parents, I truly made a difference to their experience. I loved meeting them and hearing their stories and, in turn, I was pleased I helped them find a nice host family for their holidays. Lori and Pheonix gave me the confidence to build a guardianship company and we now help hundreds of students each year, impacting positively on their school holidays and keeping them safe in the UK. Pictured is me with Lori Liu.
I found I was not able to manage to grow the company on my own, but it is difficult to find a person who wants to work at someone’s terraced house in a spare room full-time. You also feel you don’t really want a ‘stranger’ in your home all the time. It was at this point, in 2004, when I had the bright idea of asking my partner, James Foster, if he would put his trust in me and leave his Marketing job in London to take on management of our University Placements Programme. I also needed help with the all-important finances that I found very difficult to manage as the business grew. Amazingly he agreed and of course he is now co-owner of Bright World as our Commercial Director. We subsequently got married in 2005.
Without James the business would not have been able to grow any further and it definitely wouldn’t still be thriving as it is today. Pictured is James in the University Placements Department - aka our kitchen. When the phone rang and it was for him, I would say, " just putting you through" to give the illusion that we had a phone system. I would then stamp on the floor (my office was upstairs) so he knew to pick up the phone which was a second handset, and put the phone down when I heard his voice.
Today at Bright World we have a four-storey office which is constantly busy, fast-moving and exciting. We have 18 full-time staff, who are busy all day long. Our team 25 fantastic Local Coordinators work all across the UK, taking care of our students. We also have hundreds of dedicated host families and drivers who help us in safeguarding our students while they are here. I feel very privileged to work with such an awesome team of people. Carol Gill was my first employee back in 2002 and Carol still works for Bright World all these years later and still has a very positive impact on the company with her work in the Sales and Marketing Department. Sheena Trist was my second member of staff and she retired only two years ago so I have been so lucky to have such great colleagues for so long. The current team has more than 60 years of cumulative guardianship experience. Experience means everything in this business and that is why we offer such a consistent and comprehensive service.
Running a guardianship company to the high standards that we maintain is no easy feat and so all credit goes to the Bright World staff team. I thank them all for helping me to make it to 20 years. We are at the top of our game, and here’s to many many more years keeping it that way.
The Guardianship Care and Accommodation and Travel Team
Our team of Local Coordinators
The Bright World Marketing team
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