There are some weeks at Survivors Fund (SURF) which you wish you could just rewind, and hope they played out differently. Last week was one such week.
Before attending the funeral of a good friend, and a good friend of survivors, Dr Lisa Smirl, I received a call notifying me of further tragic news. Benon Banya, our loyal accountant and friend of SURF for many years, collapsed on the ascent up Mount Kilimanjaro. The medical doctor on his team of climbers was unable to resuscitate him.
As you will know from earlier newsletters, Benon was undertaking the climb to raise money for Survivors Fund (SURF). It was not his first such mission. A few years previous he had surprised me when he had announced that he was planning a sponsored cycle ride from London to Paris. After completing that ride, he began planning his next sponsored event. Never one to let even the most adverse weather conditions deter him, he ascended to the peak of Ben Nevis in 2011 in icy gales. This was the beginning of his training as preparation for his trip to Mount Kilimanjaro.
Such was his passion and commitment to our cause, addressing both physical as well as financial challenges for SURF. He gave up many of his weekends to travel from his home in Bracknell to our former office in West Brompton to ensure that our bookkeeping was diligently maintained. He served as the lead on our annual audit, to ensure that we met every condition of our financial reporting requirements of donors as well as the Charities Commission and Companies House. He also helped me to compile our monthly financial reports and statements for the Board of Trustees. He was always there for me and for SURF, with guidance and advice, and forever optimistic about our prospects even during our most difficult times a few year back.
He undertook all of this work in addition to his regular full-time job with Q8 Aviation in his position as their Senior IT Analyst. That so few were aware that he was equally adept at managing IT systems as he was at managing finances, was testament to his humility.
Benon had supported SURF from our very inception. As a friend of our founder, Mary Kayitesi Blewitt, he had helped with our books from the date of our establishment in 1997, travelling out to Rwanda when required to help build the capacity of our financial management systems there too, and has maintained his dedicated support to us ever since. Whenever he had the opportunity, he introduced his friends and colleagues to our work, and was amongst our greatest ambassadors.
There is little that I can say at this time that will in anyway heal the acute loss felt by all his family and friends, and colleagues. I would like to dedicate this newsletter in memory of Benon and convey our sincerest condolences to his wife Betty, and two children. I know that I speak for all of our supporters in saying that our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time.
All the staff and trustees of Survivors Fund (SURF) have committed to provide what support is needed by the family at this time. Benon will be laid to rest in Uganda, but his memory will live on forever through the work of everyone who supports the survivors of the genocide in Rwanda. Messages of remembrance can be left on his fundraising page which will remain open. We will announce in due course how the funding raised will be used, in accordance with the wishes of the family.
Thank you, as ever, for your ongoing support.