Cumbria Women of the Year 2008 Winner
Kath Queen from Raffles in Carlisle has dedicated her life to the city estate where she was born and made a quite remarkable contribution to her community. Kath received her Cumbria Woman of the Year award at a presentation lunch at the Wordsworth Hotel in Grasmere.
Born in the late 1940’s when Raffles was a tree lined model council estate with a thriving community, she spent very happy times at her Grandmother’s home on the estate, effectively the hub of family life. Despite her family moving and being educated in Harraby, whilst her father worked as a psychiatric nurse at The Garlands Hospital those memories inevitably drew her back to Raffles where her heart belonged to bring up her own two children.
Kath’s community commitment continued as she worked as a welfare teaching assistant in Newtown Primary School on the estate. However over twenty five years she saw at first hand the problems that had come to blight the lives of many residents as Raffles degenerated into Carlisle’s worst trouble spot. By the 1970’s parts of the estate became no-go areas after dark and gained a bad reputation for crime, disorder, feuding and unemployment. It was no longer a safe place to bring up a family.
When it seemed that everyone has given up on Raffles, Kath emerged to protect everything she held dear and set out to make a real difference. As a devout and active member of the Church of Nazarene in Belle Vue, she drew on her faith to start working directly on the estate to help those in need. One of the first projects was a breakfast club at school. Kath gained the trust of families in difficult circumstances by not condemning or judging them; she does not rescue people but equips them to learn how to cope for themselves. With a listening ear and a big heart she started a children’s club, collecting the children from around the estate in a bus. She knew a drop-in centre directly on the estate was vital and the answer to her prayers came in the shape of Rob Bell who ran the post office in Raffles; Rob offered her premises where she could work in partnership with Pastor Barrie Thomas, setting up the Living Well Trust family centre which has now been operational for seven years.
Raffles family centre to-day provides a wealth of opportunities and support to its community ranging from ante-natal clinics, senior citizens clubs, parent and toddler groups, keep fit classes, computer and cooking classes, and health clinics. Convinced that supporting young mums who may have no extended family is crucial to a good start for children, Kath set up a positive parenting programme. Many arrive at the centre traumatised from their broken lives often as a result of teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, domestic violence, truancy and de-motivation. She guides these lost souls who struggle to cope and enables them to rebuild their lives. With a band of 15 fellow workers the Centre works hard to bring confidence and restore valuable self-esteem.
The re-generation of Raffles estate has been a success story. The key player in this success is this remarkable lady – Kath Queen, whose abundance of energy vision, faith and motivation has brought together a team of support workers to assist the people of Raffles to feel pride in themselves again and trust in the work of the Living Well Trust. This work has been recognised nationally as a model of good practise, but for Kath the work is not just a job but a mission to help those around her, who mean everything to her.