Kayleigh - Beautifully Human


Story collector: Sally Basset
Photographer: Lauren Simmonds

I am Kayleigh. I live with my mum, brothers and Simon. I am a trainee at Lunch on the Run. I am happy.
​I love Lunch on the Run because I like teamwork and making buffets. I have learnt lots of new things about cooking. I love the coffee shop because I get to chat to people.
I like all of us working together. It is an important part of my life. It makes me feel good and have more confident.
​I like working with new trainees and helping them. When I first started I was nervous but now I don’t feel like that.

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Everyone who knows Kayleigh, loves her! On the outside she is a happy, confident, chatty person. Loveable and friendly…and she is all those things, but I want to tell you some of her story, the journey that we have travelled together, the battles we have fought, the tears and the laughter we have shared. The person you see has overcome so much to reach a point where not every day is filled with that drowning feeling, not knowing where they fit or where they belong. Kayleigh has found her way and arrived at that mid-way point, still a long way to travel, but happy and content with her destination. We feel privileged to have played a small part in her journey. It has been and continues to be a pleasure. She is the very reason we do the job we do.

My first encounter with Kayleigh was of a shy, quite and very nervous young women who had finished catering college with some great practical skills but lacked confidence and self-esteem. ‘Sorry’ was use a lot for absolutely no reason, a defence mechanism to be socially accepted, a willingness to please, to have a purpose. She was emotional and uncomfortable in her own skin. She had loads of doubt and no self-belief. She found it difficult to make eye contact and communicate her fears, but deep down we saw a spark, she was a fighter and had a point to prove, she wanted to be successful and achieve her personal goals. I want to do this! I’m scared! I’m nervous and uncomfortable! I’m out of my ‘comfort zone’!

BUT…together we worked hard, with a wonderful team and an amazing and supportive family. The one thing we all had in common; stubborn, strong, independent women that ‘NO’ wasn’t an option for!

The day we said ‘yes, you have been successful, you have secured a paid job’ will stay with me forever. Priceless, genuine pleasure. She was so happy, we all cried! How would she cope with a room full of primary school kids, so much noise and not a lot of order? New roles and routines in unfamiliar surroundings and people. well…she was and is amazing, because she battled her fears. Strength doesn’t come from what you can do, it comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t do.

Ok we talked about the ‘ups and downs’, the job didn’t work out long term how we initially planned, did we get the ‘happy ever after’? YES because Kayleigh is happy and comfortable in her choices and that is the success of this story. We supported her to make the right choices for her. After two years we needed to re-group, which could have knocked her back but it didn’t, it made Kayleigh stronger.

Kayleigh volunteers now, working and supporting others with learning disabilities and autism, seeing her pass on those skills to others who were in the same position as her all those years ago is AMAZING!! Seeing her deal with customers, people she doesn’t know and still always manage a smile fills me with pride.

Confidence???? How do we give that to someone who doubts everything? With time and patience. Supporting that person and encouraging them to know they can do it! Empowering them to share their knowledge with others. Showing them new skills and seeing them develop. Kayleigh has done this, it hasn’t been easy, there have been tears, some enormous success and some disappointment, but always with enthusiasm and that infectious smile.​
I want to inspire others with her story, Kayleigh is a normal person, in a normal world, doing everyday normal things, but that is what makes her extraordinary. She is passionate and dedicated in everything she does. She is loyal and makes her peers feel they too can achieve anything they put their minds to. She makes them feel comfortable in a world of disorder, she is their calm. She is kind and caring. She is how we want others to think of us. Kayleigh is someone so deserving who doesn’t expect anything in return. All this why still dealing with all those mixed up feelings of insecurity and trying to balance some order in her life. That is what makes Kayleigh so incredibly special.

Sally Basset – Manager at Lunch on the Run