Greetings to you all from me, Françoise Lemagnen, the incoming Chief Executive! I have just returned from an intensive and instructive few weeks in Rwanda meeting with the team and partners and most importantly with survivors across the country.
I return impressed and inspired by this first encounter. The contributions of our donors are a lifeline helping to rebuild lives, improve health and education and providing many survivors with the opportunity to generate income.
I recall the voice of Immaculée, a beneficiary of the WSEP programme, saying how working in the banana collective has helped her earn money so that she can now fend for herself and give to others and what that means to her self confidence and her dignity. I can see the fire in the eyes of Vestine, who after years of sickness with HIV and ‘wanting to die’, now has formidable life energy and is helping to bring others into AVEGA Agahozo’s health and counselling programmes.
SURF, as I have quickly discovered, has a remarkable team, equally remarkable partners and trustees and it strives for excellence in achieving its goals effectively, in an accountable manner. Its impact on improving the lives of the most vulnerable survivors is undeniable as I witnessed through countless meetings and stories, which moved me to the core.
I was also struck by how much more there is to be done. Quite apart from the many who still require support for their basic needs and the on-going efforts in areas such as reparation, the future holds new challenges and new needs, with elderly widows being just one example. The survivor community has specific needs that SURF and its partners are duty-bound to address in the coming years through our advocacy work and our programmes.
I am humbled to be part of SURF’s journey, to take up the mantle and founding objectives of Mary Kayitesi Blewitt OBE and to step into the shoes of David Russell. Having spent three weeks in his company and listening to the numerous heartfelt and moving speeches of thanks from partners, staff and survivors it is clear that David has made an indelible mark on SURF. He is remembered for his kindness, his energy and talent and the impact he has made through his unwavering support for survivors. I take this opportunity to thank him personally and on behalf of all concerned and to wish him well in his future activities.
BUT, as David indicated in a previous post, he will never be far from SURF, indeed he will be acting as consultant over the next few months to assist me and also to contribute to efforts as we build towards the 20th anniversary in 2014, and focus our efforts on driving forward our online fundraising in particular – in which all support will be as appreciated as ever!
The words of Immaculée and the determination in Vestine’s eyes will accompany me as I begin my new role and help me to stay focused on SURF’s mission. I am looking forward to the challenge and trust that I can count on all of you as we move forward.