Cumbria Woman of the Year 2014 Winner
Doreen Beattie from Kirkoswald has been honoured with the title of Cumbria Woman of the Year at the 25th Anniversary Luncheon, recognising a life dedicated to caring for and about the most vulnerable in society, children and the elderly. This truly remarkable lady, friend and neighbour, has helped families at the most difficult and distressing times in their lives.
Doreen has played a big part in the community life of Kirkoswald and also much further afield, in a very caring capacity. Whoever in the village needed any support, comfort and reassurance she quietly and unassumingly offered it unquestioningly. Those in crisis situations benefited from her kindness, and numerous members of the village who have been lucky enough to know her have heaped praise on Doreen for the way she has devoted her entire life to caring.
Having been abandoned by her own mother, she grew up in an orphanage in Glasgow. Doreen became used to looking after others from the very early age of 12, when she was expected to rise at 5.30am to look after 17 under-nines, washing and dressing them. Life was firm and tough but she always tried to find some fun and companionship in those days. Little did she know she was building the foundation for her future life as a foster carer and now kind-hearted and devoted careworker for the elderly. Doreen, like so many once they were of an age to leave the orphanage, was sent to train as a nurse and it was while she was training that one of the nurses realised that Doreen had no family or place to go on her day off and started to include her in her family; thus, Doreen met the lady she now refers to as ‘Mum’.
Having trained as a nurse she was well equipped to take on the demanding role of fostering, so, as well as bringing up her own two children she gave countless others a chance of a normal home life. Starting with pre-adoption babies and then older children, she was entirely non-judgemental and chose to care for those children who had been overlooked and in the care system for lengthy periods. Often, they would be emotionally traumatised and challenging, but Doreen always tried to find the positives in every child and build on those – they were all treated as her own children and joined her family holidays, outings – she even put one through university.
She came into the life of one young boy when his mother was a single parent and coping with a challenging different child. Doreen recognised the boy’s difficulties, confusion, fear and needs. Dispensing compassion and discipline in equal measure, she cared for him, always on his side. She supported him through his diagnosis with Aspergers Syndrome and 25 years later, still very important to him; his mother says “ How proud I was when he received his BA, in cap & gown, but just as delighted to see his very special Mrs Beattie there. She is an absolute angel – our very own Mary Poppins. If we need to talk, or some decorating done – there she pops up, with a bucket of paste and a smile – humble to the bone! We all adore her!”
The judging panel were very moved by one letter of nomination which was from this boy – now a young man. He wrote:- “You always remember a teacher, and a mentor to help to get ahead in life, I owe my learning to her. Without her, people would have given up on me, and I might be in an institution or worse. Doreen Beattie wanted to prove I wasn’t like the rest, I wasn’t going to be written off as unteachable, unable to get work or a career. I now have a respectable job, I got through my education, and I always remembered the advice she gave me. She’d scold me if I was wrong, and praise me if I did right. I owe my life to her, and I always look forward to seeing her, and telling her how I’m doing in life. Seeing her beam with pride is a delight, she knows she helped shape me the right way. I wouldn’t be writing this if it weren’t for Doreen Beattie.”
She has had a huge influence on her foster children. Many are still in touch and send Christmas cards; some are still very much part of her family. Doreen has always gone the extra mile for them and often their parents too. The hardest time was returning the children to their biological parents – she often struggled with this, saying, “You can’t love a child without feeling sad when they go home”
When she retired from fostering children her capacity to care found new avenues and she became a carer for the elderly. She is passionate about dignity at the end of life and her special skills and dedication often enabled people to keep their loved ones at home, rather than them having to go into care homes. She says, “Elderly people can be as vulnerable as children. At the end of the day, they’re just looking for love and kindness.” She works in partnership with local doctors and nurses and “wants to give quality of life and time she thinks it’s everybody’s right to have”
Doreen has an incredible ability to engage and connect with all ages, across the generations, lending a sympathetic and understanding ear to all who turn to her for support. She has a positive outlook and mental strength, offering comfort to others in a completely selfless way and she also enjoys a good chat and a laugh. When families are at their most vulnerable, experiencing ill health or other apparently insurmountable challenges, Doreen’s humility, calm and gracious manner, gentle humour, all provide succour.
Ever practical, she can be seen delivering freshly baked soup and scones, shopping or prescriptions to those unable to fend for themselves. Friends describe her as a true and loyal person and have been known to hide their ironing and hoover on more than one occasion, as she has her own unique style of caring not only for the patient but for the whole family unit.
Now coping with the incapacitating illness of Parkinsons, her first response when diagnosed was to organise a fund-raising garden party for that organisation, raising £1,000. She now attends the local meetings and is still to be found serving coffee to those who can’t manage and happy to let her raffle prize go to others. Still caring, her determination to continue the work she has always known and enjoyed wasn’t going to be halted – the fact that she is so totally unaware of her ‘special talent’ is inspiring and even more endearing.
Doreen Beattie is a shining example of the special people in our community, who give their lives to Fostering and Caring, and we are privileged to award her with The Cumbria Woman of the Year trophy.