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  • A dual curriculum

    We are the only international school in the region to offer a dual British-Uzbek curriculum

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Unsung Hero – Karen Brickley

Ms Karen has been working in a voluntary capacity in the MAC team since August 2021. But who is Ms Karen and what does she do?

Ms Karen has been assisting with all activities related to marketing and communications, be it for the “BST - Your Local Global Family, 10 Years On” campaign, being on hand for our Open Evenings or helping with planning and delivering our International Day festivities.  More recently, she helped BST secure the renowned translator and Uzbek scholar, Mark Reese as a guest speaker for book week and you will also have seen her assisting in the Library on a Wednesday.

Ms Karen’s willingness to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in has been the hallmark of her volunteering within the MAC team. She can always be relied upon to see the bigger picture, offer a different perspective and use her diplomatic skills to bring consensus in tricky situations.

Born in beautiful Zimbabwe, a child of the 60s, her life has a fair amount of adventure and that is exactly how, she and her husband Kieran (Dr Brickley, Chemistry teacher at BST) would describe their time here in Uzbekistan to date.

They joke about how “they had to come halfway across the world” to meet each other in London back in 1990. Kieran from Ireland, to complete his PhD as a Biochemist and Karen from Zimbabwe, who had only planned to work in London a short while before travelling onwards.  A friendship that blossomed into a marriage of 30 years in September 2021.

This is their second International School posting, having worked/volunteered last year at CIS Tashkent.  When I asked her to describe their experience over the last 15 months in Toshkent in 3 words – she giggled exclaiming that is unfair, but I would say fulfilling, enriching, and intriguing….  Karen also volunteered at CIS last year as a TLA for Year 1.

It is noticeably clear that Ms Karen still carries a deep affection for Zimbabwe.  However, Ms Karen reflected that growing up in Zimbabwe during a tumultuous time of civil war - leading to Zimbabwe’s independence - was a defining time for her and many of her generation.  “Many of us had to “grow up” before our time.  As with many conflicts, the struggles for personal freedoms, equality and in Zimbabwe’s case, independence, came at a high price.  The boarding school years at Nagle House convent during the peak of this war, were some of the happiest but also the most challenging and harrowing of my school life”.

Majoring in English and Art, unable to travel abroad to pursue further studies, Ms Karen used her business administration and secretarial qualifications to enter the mining and Agri-science multi-national Anglo-American Corporation (AAC).   Here, as a member of the PR team, Karen developed her creative writing, and desktop publishing skills.  She was also offered a unique opportunity to develop her love of journalism and was subsequently apprenticed by one of the top national broadsheet editors working at Anglo at the time.  She remembers that time fondly. “I loved working in Harare then, as one of the youngest on the team, the variety and responsibility was amazing”.   

Looking back over her working life, she notes she has been fortunate to have had such a varied career.  One that has taken her from the depths of the nickel and gold mines where she was responsible for the filming and photography of various operations to working alongside captains of industry lobbying for changes in EU legislation in Brussels and London while supporting a leading team of multilingual, Oxbridge graduates and leaders.  Later, following the birth of their two children, Julia and Ben, now 26 and 23 respectively, Karen began working in the IT sector, specifically the “Device to Data Centre” space.  Karen notes that in all her experiences, it is so often the working relationships that were formed during these roles that made her working life so memorable and rewarding. 

She attributes their (with her sisters) resilience and sense of adventure to their grandparents and parents.  Her grandfather, served with the Royal Engineers and was awarded the Burma Star following his service with the Gurkhas during the Burma Campaign 1944-45.   He was later commended for bravery and for his service to bomb disposal in the North of England before he ventured to Africa.  Her father’s work ethic and commitment to his family was informed by a keen sense of service and entrepreneurial spirit.   Through their humour and “can do” attitudes, she believes she and her sisters learnt a lot about community and service, living their early years among some great characters and eccentrics.  

Her love for Zimbabwe and a desire to help in some way to mitigate the prevailing poverty and the HIV and Aids pandemic that hit the country hard, led Ms Karen to collaborate with author and renowned humanitarian Susie Howe, who founded Bethany Children’s Trust in early 2000.  In her spare time, Karen served as a trustee and then later as chair of trustees for over 10 years.  An advocate of lifelong learning, Ms Karen was looking forward to working with the charity Doorstep Library a community-focused charity dedicated to bringing the gift of books and joy of reading directly into the homes of children across London who need support.  Sadly, the Covid pandemic put a stop to this at the time, but she remains a keen supporter of their work.

Karen is currently writing up some of these memories that will contribute to a book – a “someday” project.

Ms Karen noted volunteering at BST has been a wonderful experience so far; she continues to learn and benefit from being surrounded by creative and talented colleagues.