Survivors Fund (SURF) is delighted to announce that Liliane Umubyeyi, Co-Chair of Survivors Fund (SURF) from 2008 to 2012 has been awarded the Third Sector Excellence Award for Chair of the Year.

Liliane retired as Co-Chair at our AGM this week, in order to focus on her university studies and family. However, she remains in post as a trustee of Survivors Fund (SURF), and remains as committed as ever to advocate for and support survivors of the genocide in Rwanda.

Nick Joseph (left) and Liliane Umubyeyi (right) in conversation with SURF Director David Russell

Though it was not possible to nominate Nick Joseph, Co-Chair along with Liliane, the award is testament to his work as well in the role. Together, they have made a critical contribution to our work.

The citation from last night’s awards dinner reads:

Awarded to the chair of a charity’s trustees who has made the most outstanding contribution to the performance of the charity during the year

Liliane Umubyeyi moved to the UK from Rwanda in 2000 after losing almost all of her family in the genocide of 1994.

Since arriving in this country, she has volunteered for the Survivors Fund, a charity that supports survivors of the genocide, and in 2004 she was appointed to the trustee board. In 2007, she was named co-chair, becoming the first survivor of the atrocities to be appointed to the position at the charity.

During her time at the Survivors Fund, Umubyeyi has spoken regularly at schools and community events about what happened in her home country, helping redress the fact that the subject is rarely taught in UK schools. She has also worked with fellow genocide survivors in Rwanda to help them overcome the trauma they face.

Umubyeyi has played a crucial role in helping to manage and strengthen the relationships between the Survivors Fund and the organisations it works with in Rwanda. On several visits to the country in recent years, her linguistic skills, local cultural knowledge and understanding of survivors’ needs have proved invaluable when holding discussions with partner agencies.

The charity says that Umubyeyi is “trusted by other survivors” and is respected as “an honest broker” by the charity’s partner organisations. She has also played a fundamental role in the development of the charity’s office in Rwanda, which has grown from three to 12 staff since she has been in post. The charity also credits her with helping it to secure funding from Comic Relief and the Department for International Development.

Thanks to Umubyeyi’s efforts, the lives of thousands of widows and orphans have been changed for the better in her home country, the charity says.

Justin Davis Smith, chief executive of Volunteering England and an award judge, says: “It’s a truly inspirational story of courage and commitment in the face of appalling personal suffering.”

– Rosie Chapman, independent charity adviser, Belinda Pratten and Rosie Chapman Associates
– Joan Coyle, HR director, Save the Children International
– Justin Davis Smith, chief executive, Volunteering England
– Joe Irvin, chief executive, Navca

– Liam Preston, British Youth Council
– Peter Bennett-Jones, Comic Relief
– Peter Latchford, Community Development Foundation

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