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How did Diana's qualities remain unrecognised for 27 years
We should all learn a lesson from this true and harrowing story
Concern surrounding Diana's welfare was first detected following a hospital visit when she was just a few months old.
By four years of age, Diana had been taken into the care of the local authority, yet sadly this was not to be the new beginning she so desperately needed or deserved. On the contrary, it was merely the start of what was to become a catalogue of systematic abuse. Unsurprisingly, the unthinkable acts this little girl became accustomed to affected her physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Diana entered into and left her teenage years plagued by relentless self-loathing and devoid of any trace of confidence or self-worth. The extent of this young girl's vulnerability became visible, which in turn led to yet further abuse, this time in the form of bullying. Stigma, prejudice and ridicule became the norm for Diana.
Despite all odds and a multitude of challenges along the way, aged 19 Diana met Shaun with whom she was gradually able to form a trusting relationship. They have been together for eight years now and Diana attributes their bond as being the catalyst for the slow re-building of her life and her confidence.
Janice Percy of Healey Dell Heritage Centre & Tea Rooms said; "Diana was referred to us by the Council for Voluntary Services subsequent to a meeting she'd had with her advisor at the Job Centre, during which she'd mentioned her love of cooking.
"As with all tea-room volunteer referrals, I telephoned Diana for a brief chat with a view to inviting her to the centre. During our phone conversation she struck me as pleasant and intelligent but quite nervous.
"From the outset, Diana was refreshingly open and honest. She explained that apart from enjoying cooking, she had no specific skills or work experience due to a long history of mental health issues. She also explained the frustrations of attempting to successfully complete job applications having never previously worked.
"Customary questions such as, ability to work unsupervised or as a team member, employment history, present or former employers contact information regarding references are impossible for someone of Diana's age to reasonably justify leaving blank, especially as she doesn't have any children and cannot explain away the years due to child-rearing.
"I invited Diana to meet with me on a Friday morning. She arrived promptly and took a seat opposite me. Despite my best endeavours towards putting her at ease, I could sense Diana's nerves. I did stress the tea rooms were often extremely busy and that the work-load was at times gruelling, to which she didn't appear one bit deterred. I explained that our team is made up of a diverse group of volunteers, from contrasting backgrounds but are all warm, welcoming and amongst the nicest people anyone could wish to meet.
"As Diana had already mentioned that she wasn't in a hurry to go anywhere, I invited her to meet some of the other volunteers. She accepted and agreed to stay for a couple of hours and observe the set-up. As it turned out, she stayed for the whole day and ended up working extremely hard.
"I didn't want to pressurise her in any way regarding any future commitment. I instead asked her to get back in touch with me if she felt that our organisation was one she would like to become involved with. I hoped that I might have heard back from Diana that evening but didn't. To be honest, I didn't expect to hear from her again.
"I turned up the next morning to open up and there was Diana waiting outside. She has not missed a weekend's volunteering since.
"Not only that, her partner Shaun has become a volunteer too. In fact, we often wonder how we ever survived without either of them.
"Today is the day Diana has been waiting for...
"We are proud of our relationships with other agencies and organisations, not least that of our association with Hopwood Hall College.
"We arranged for Diana to meet with an advisor and today sees the start of Diana's first day at college. Diana has been counting the minutes and really cannot wait to start building up a portfolio of qualifications.
"I and the rest of our team cannot believe the transformation in Diana. She has gone from not comfortably looking you in the eye during conversation to that of a confident, chatty, team member who just so happens to be a complete pleasure to work with.
"Erica who has managed the catering department since opening has taken Diana under her wing and between them they all but run the kitchen, efficiently, competently and always with a friendly smile.
"Not all long-term un-employed people are jobless out of choice. Sadly there are so many other Dianas out there. Many will never get the chance to shine or the opportunity to realise how truly gifted they really are.
"The fact that that we have been instrumental in assisting Diana to learn to love herself and her qualities means more to us than words can describe.
"Good luck for your new start Diana and we look forward to having you back at the tea rooms this weekend."