Tributes flow for NGO leader

Grocott's Mail - - NEWS - By SUE MA­CLEN­NAN

In an ex­traor­di­nary trib­ute to health and devel­op­ment vi­sion­ary Mary Humphreys, who passed away last Sun­day, staff at the Raphael Cen­tre con­tin­ued with their pro­grammes this week. Humphreys was found by neigh­bours at her home around 1.30pm Sun­day 1 Oc­to­ber. Po­lice opened an in­quest docket. On Mon­day po­lice con­firmed that her death was caused by ill­ness.

Speak­ing through tears on Mon­day morn­ing, the Raphael Cen­tre’s op­er­a­tions man­ager Anne Lo­ef­fler said ev­ery staff mem­ber had ar­rived at work that morn­ing to share their grief. “But we said we can’t stop the im­por­tant work that we were do­ing with Mary,” Lo­ef­fler said.

The team re­solved to hon­our her com­mit­ment by go­ing out and con­tin­u­ing their pro­grammes this week, one of which was a hol­i­day pro­gramme for school chil­dren.

Lo­ef­fler was on Mon­day ap­pointed act­ing CEO by the Board. “Raphael Cen­tre’s work will con­tinue. Mary left us in a sound fi­nan­cial po­si­tion and we have strong sup­port from our Board and com­mu­nity part­ners.”

Al­ready, sev­eral com­mu­nity part­ners and lo­cal and over­seas fun­ders had pledged their con­tin­ued back­ing.

The Raphael Cen­tre does HIV Coun­selling and Test­ing (HCT) and runs As­set Based Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment (ABCD) pro­grammes.

Board spokesper­son Roger Walsh said on Mon­day, “We are all ter­ri­bly up­set. The board are hold­ing an ur­gent meet­ing to en­sure the work con­tin­ues to hon­our Mary and keep our clients served.”

Humphreys had been com­mit­ted to turn­ing around a highly in­debted NGO, Walsh said. “She re­fo­cused it to be an File photo as­set based com­mu­nity devel­op­ment leader and dis­pensed with the un­help­ful, dis­em­pow­er­ing and un­sus­tain­able hand­out model of years gone by.

“Mary man­aged to di­ver­sify and se­cure fund­ing streams and im­ple­ment poli­cies and pro­cesses. De­spite huge set­backs, such as the re­cent of­fice fire, she never gave up and with the team ex­panded their pro­grammes to make a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to Gra­ham­stown and other lo­cal NGOs.”

The Raphael Cen­tre moved to Dun­das Street af­ter a fire at the end of March de­stroyed their of­fices in Bathurst Street.

Devel­op­ment ac­tivist

Direc­tor of Com­mu­nity En­gage­ment at Rhodes Univer­sity Di Hornby said Humphreys’ death was a blow to Gra­ham­stown devel­op­ment cir­cles. “Mary has been a very in­flu­en­tial NGO Direc­tor and com­mu­nity ac­tivist,” Hornby said. “At an or­gan­i­sa­tional level, she has re-en­vi­sioned and po­si­tioned the Raphael Cen­tre very strate­gi­cally in the Prov­ince – they have in­flu­enced a large num­ber of NPO, CBO and school groups to use the as­sets they have to change their sit­u­a­tion.

“This has made a very mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tion to the devel­op­ment sec­tor, par­tic­u­larly in Gra­ham­stown.

“Mary was a won­der­ful com­bi­na­tion of strength, courage and gen­tle­ness. She could read sit­u­a­tions well and was never shy to roll up her sleeves and get work­ing. She has built a strong, well equipped team around her so her work and le­gacy will carry on. We will work along­side them and make sure they feel sup­ported in this dif­fi­cult time.”

Bernie Dol­ley, the Direc­tor of Ikhala Trust, a core part­ner of Raphael Cen­tre, said the news of Mary’s pass­ing had sent shock waves through the devel­op­ment com­mu­nity.

“Mary so un­selfishly of­ten went with­out to en­sure that oth­ers’ as­pi­ra­tions and dreams were met,” Dol­ley said. “Mary al­ways wanted what was right and just and worked like a Tro­jan at great per­sonal sac­ri­fice over many years. She was a faith­ful and hon­est devel­op­ment ac­tivist”.

Gen­tle soul

There was an out­pour­ing of grief from friends and fam­ily on Mary’s Face­book page, with posts speak­ing of “kind­ness” and “a gen­tle soul”.

“You can be proud of all the mean­ing you lived and gave on. You left the world a bet­ter place,” a friend posted.

Ra­dio jour­nal­ist Xolani Kondile said, “I’m so shaken... Mary linked me with my cur­rent em­ployer the Chil­dren’s Ra­dio Foun­da­tion a few years ago... and we shared a deep pas­sion for com­mu­nity devel­op­ment and chil­dren... You’ve made a pro­found im­pact on my life and I’ll for­ever hold you dear in my heart.”

Trag­i­cally, Mary’s fam­ily were due to visit her this week, ar­riv­ing on Tues­day.

Mem­bers of the com­mu­nity have been in­vited to join them at a memo­rial ser­vice in the Rhodes Chapel at 1pm to­day.

Tributes con­tinue to pour in af­ter the death of NGO leader Mary Humphreys last week­end.

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