Network for Africa depends on the kindness of our supporters. Many of you have been with us since our humble beginnings almost twenty years ago. Thanks to your help, our projects continue to offer survivors of conflict an opportunity to transform their lives for the better. Today, we would like to remember three friends who are no longer with us. They lived very different lives, but they all understood what Network for Africa was trying to achieve.
Dr Mike Shipley was a pain specialist at University College Hospital in London. In his spare time, he helped professional musicians who had repetitive strain injuries. It was his love of music that first led him to Network for Africa. His partner, Philip, read about our Rwandan choir and music school in the BBC’s Music Magazine, and this prompted their years of generous support. Mike and Philip came to Rwanda with me to see the music school, and they fell in love with the country. They made several further visits, helping medical colleagues at hospitals in Kigali. Mike and Philip’s generosity made it possible to introduce traumatized genocide survivors to the healing power of music. We are forever grateful to them, and we miss Mike’s profoundly wise and civilised company.
Stuart Hemington was an agricultural consultant in Lincolnshire. During his career he managed family farming businesses, and chaired the Lincolnshire Rural Stress Network which helped farmers who were struggling to cope. When he found out about our work with Aspire in Rwanda, improving farming techniques, he became a keen supporter. He understood how important it was to help families get higher yields from their land, enabling them to grow enough food to live on, with surplus to sell. He saw how crucial it is to empower women, and he and his wife Pauline made their donations in the name of their granddaughter, Nia. To this day, a room at Aspire in Kigali is dedicated to Stuart.
Hans Olsen had first hand experience of what it was like to grow up surrounded by violence and insecurity. He and his twin brother spent their first five years in an orphanage in their native Denmark. When they were returned to their mother, they were at the mercy of her boyfriends. Hans trained as a hairdresser and moved to London where he earned a reputation as among the top ‘cutters’ in the capital. He invested in property which he renovated and rented out, determined never again to be poor and vulnerable. Hans responded generously to Network for Africa’s mission to help people help themselves. He was resolutely positive and without self-pity, even as he faced years of a rare and agonising form of skin cancer. We will miss his sunny, funny, effervescent company, and wish his husband Jean-Marc well as he adapts to life without Hans.