Everybody has a story to tell. And some of us have stories that are a bit more unusual than others. Dawn is one of these people. After one and a half hour, two coffees and a hearty breakfast at the Koffie Pot (for me, Dawn sensibly abstained), I still felt I hadn’t even heard half of her story.
Dawn is one of those people who keep themselves busy. Food is an important part of her life, being a great chef she loves to cook and entertain people, exploring new recipes and testing her skills. Or you can find her out in nature somewhere (preferably near a lake, an ocean, or a river – anything water!), walking her two dogs. And if that’s not enough, she is also an avid reader who loves anything from crime to non-fiction and self-help healing books.
Under a calm and gentle exterior, this lass has a mean taste for adventure – and she has seen her share of the world. When she was younger, Dawn set herself three goals. Become a good cook, learn a foreign language, and travel. And so, Dawn being Dawn, she just went and made it happen.
In her late teens, she started working as a sous-chef in the kitchen of a restaurant in Ledbury, with a chef who taught her all the skills and tricks in the book. She became a competent chef and achieved her first goal. It was time to tackle goals number two and three: travel and learn a foreign language.
She scanned the Lady Magazine for ads and found one for an au pair in Switzerland. She would live with the family and work five days a week, from 7am to 7pm, looking after and educating the children.
She applied, got the job (all via written letters!) and within two weeks had disappeared off on an international train with destination Geneva, Switzerland.
Dawn: “The father and children had promised to collect me from the train station. The gentlemen had written to tell me exactly what he and the children would be wearing, so that I would be able to recognise them. I thought, what an adventure! And yes, there they were, exactly how they described.”
She stayed in Switzerland for three years, living with and working for several families. Dawn: “Of course, the children often didn’t speak a word of English. If we were to understand each other, I would have to learn theirs, and they would have to learn mine. And so I taught them how to read and write in English.”
In Switzerland, she ticked off her third goal – learn a foreign language. She learned how to speak French and managed to maintain the language throughout her life – she still watches French films, reads French books, and chatters away happily when she travels to ‘La Douce France’.
But the taste for adventure kept pulling. Dawn: “I had always wanted to see the U.S.A., it was my American Dream. After three years in Switzerland, I moved to Washington D.C. to work there as a Nanny. What an amazing place, I have always kept a love for the East coast of The States.”
She stayed in the U.S.A. for nearly three years, travelling through large parts of the country (and ticking off Mexico along the way), before ending up working as a Nanny in a posh mansion on the Hollywood Hill of Los Angeles.
The U.K. would have to wait a little bit longer for Dawn to come back home – when she had seen enough of the U.S.A. (for now), she found her way back to Switzerland, where she stayed for another six years.
At last, back in the UK, Dawn settled and had a son, how is now in his early twenties. She offered to volunteer at the St. Martin’s Primary School, who, appreciating her experience in raising a child on the autism spectrum, didn’t waste time to offer her a job as a tutor for children with ‘special needs’. Eleven years she worked there, supporting children who for one reason or another struggled with their time in school.
The final career change came around 2015. Dawn: “I felt that being a carer would be the job for me, and I applied with a range of home care companies in Hereford, including Kemble at Home, which was then still called Kemble Care. Jason interviewed me, and he was great. He told me he’d offer me the job any time, but he never pressured me to hurry my decision. I went back to him with a load more questions, and once I had decided to join Kemble at Home I never looked back.”
When she talks about being a carer, you can see she is in the right job. Her face lights up, and we both pretend we’ve got something in our eye when she relates an anecdote about one of her favourite clients.
Dawn: “I looked after this wonderful lady, she was 92 years old. I asked her whether she remembered what type of car she learned to drive in when she was younger. She looked at me, and said, ‘I didn’t learn to drive in a car’, and I asked what she meant. ‘I didn’t drive a car, I learned to drive in a truck’, she said. This lady had been a ‘Landgirl’ in the Women’s Land Army during the war, who worked the lands while the men were at war. She used to drive all the girls to and from the different farms where they worked – in a truck. What an amazing lady she was, I was in pieces at her funeral. I still bring flowers to her grave every month.”
When you chat with her, you can imagine clients loving Dawn from the start. She has a generous laugh, and everything about her radiates brightness and positivity. You can just tell she makes things happen in life. It is very telling that only in passing, at the very end of the conversation, she mentions that she has Multiple Sclerosis. She has had MS for more than twenty years, but it hasn’t stopped her doing exactly what she wanted. Dawn is one of those people who are ‘Mind over Matter’, as they say.