Jerry Dugdale | September 21, 2019
It is with immense sadness that we share news of the loss of our dear friend Helen Richardson who died earlier this summer. Not only as a personal friend to us, but also as a wonderful supporter and encourager of ServeDirect, Helen has always been a bright light of inspiration, since the very start.
Not content with encouraging us to move to Uganda in 2009, Helen and Steve were some of our first visitors to Kampala. This was back in the days when visiting WTA meant sampling the delights of the Networth Hotel overnight and hanging out in Wobulenzi Town in the evening – not for the faint-hearted.
Although endlessly self-deprecating about her lack of official teaching qualifications, Helen would be better described as a born and gifted communicator. She could ‘wow’ a primary class at Connect (then ‘The Bridge) with her imaginative teaching style, and then mesmerise an entire class of 120+ teenagers, telling them stories of her own life and overcoming challenges on a daily basis. But we remember her very well as being a great listener. Helen would always stop and give time to any student who asked to speak to her; she might then be overheard giving an impromptu session on Maths, Geography, world events or even careers and life advice, inspiring boys and girls alike. It goes without saying that she would stop and pray with any student feeling alone or going through desperate times. She invariably left them with a sense of hope, of worth and purpose.
Whether chatting with someone casually in the market or speaking at length with a teacher, Helen made each person the focus of her attention.
In 2012, Helen and Steve were the driving forces behind ‘Team Cheltenham’. The collective fundraising of their team was so successful that they were able to fully fund the building of the first Primary Resource Centre on the WTA site. From that point on there was a very close connection between Helen and Deborah and her team. As usual, Helen got involved with every activity from craft & netball to teaching & speaking. She and Steve also introduced us to others who in turn became firm ServeDirect friends and repeat visitors – notably Val Bunker, Fliss Blunt and more recently Stan and Sue Rothwell, our first Project Guardians.
As regular visitors for many years, Helen and Steve have been a source of ongoing encouragement to Charles and his team for many years – helping with bookkeeping, financial advice, pastoral advice and their unique support of the Sunday lunch programme. As mentioned in last month’s article with Gabriel, this has brought huge delight to students every week, providing a welcome break from the porridge and posho menu. Interestingly, Sunday lunch also serves as a major ‘selling point’ when marketing the school to new parents.
Helen embraced the unexpected side of life in Uganda with great enthusiasm – and could laugh off a potentially serious break down, lack of power & water and any safari excitement as an everyday occurrence to be relished.
Helen has left her mark at WTA. Although unable to visit in the last few years, she always kept in touch with news and developments, writing messages of kindness and support from afar. It goes without saying that we will all miss her hugely in our lives; she is still remembered by many students who left WTA years ago. A constant source of encouragement, fun and wisdom – we are so grateful for such good friends, who take the time to listen, linger and love those at WTA.