Doreen left the Philippines arriving in Kingstanding, Birmingham in 2002 in an attempt to make a new life for herself and her two young daughters. She began in a small flat over a shop – a newly arrived immigrant hoping for a welcome, work and a home, desperate for her children to join her. In her wildest dreams she did not imagine that 11 years later she would meet the Prime Minister in Downing Street, the following year accept the Queens Award for community work and then be honoured with an MBE.
The MBE came on Friday February 20th 2015 in Good Hope Hospital but began when Doreen started attending Mass at Christ the King Church in Kingstanding. She saw a job advertised for a ‘New Heights’ community worker in the parish’s new Community project. Doreen applied and was given the post. What she lacked in some ways she more than made up for in others, especially in a wonderful ability to attract committed and talented people willing to work with her in serving the local community as well as the parish. It was Doreen’s passion, openness and warmth that attracted us, that drew us in.
What followed? A thriving community cafe, partnerships with over 30 other organisations, over £2 million of funding, 100 volunteers(mostly parishioners), a new community centre and, most importantly, thousands of people’s lives enriched by the many, many services offered at New Heights.
If you followed Doreen home, you would meet a loving husband Duncan, small son Paolo, wonderful daughters Pamela and Justine and another thriving community centre milling around the kitchen, lounge and converted garage; people converging from around the city, others temporarily lodging there, pool competitions taking place, music playing and food being prepared.
Even when diagnosed with cancer three years ago, Doreen continued as much as she could. Such passionate commitment was all born of her faith, upbringing and nature which made her irrepress
ibly positive, vivacious – even in the face of death. It gave her the courage to simultaneously respond to the destruction of typhoon Haiyan and her cancer.
Since her diagnosis, Doreen has also been preparing her family and herself for her journey to God with the same smile and hopefulness she showed when greeting someone calling in at the New Heights Café. Life was never easy for Doreen but she was, is blessed with all the qualities of the beatitudes. Hers is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Doreen passed away on Sunday February 22nd 2014. May she rest in peace. Amen
Fr Michael White
St John’s, Tamworth