We are saddened to announce that Kathy Smedley, co-founder of Act4Africa, passed away in August after a long illness.
From the cake sales and car boot fundraisers of the early years, Act4Africa has gone on to reach out to 1.28 million people in East and Southern Africa. Kathy's vision and determination to help Africa's most disadvantaged has taken shape, and whilst she would say there is still a mountain to climb - and we agree - we would like to take a moment to reflect on her incredible achievement.
Weâ€™ve been asking some of the people she knew and worked with to share their thoughts and memories of Kathy with us â€“ and we in turn wanted to share them with you in the form of this tribute.
Act4Africa will continue to work tirelessly to climb that mountain - of gender inequality, of poverty, stigma, lack of information and education. Our forthcoming Impact Report, due for publication next week, will outline exactly how far we've come.
I travelled to Uganda with Act4Africa in the Summer of 2011 on my Medical Elective. I had been introduced to Kathy and the charity, as the Mum of my good friend Grace. The trip to Africa was a journey far out of my comfort zone, and I will never forgot the support that Kathy gave to me during this time. She knew I was anxious, and she really helped me to get out there, and to stay safe while I was there. I was amazed when I got out to Jinja, a village town in Uganda, to see the work that Kathy and Martin had done with the charity. It truly amazed me! I can honestly say that it was a life-changing experience, with many highs and some lows. Since that trip Kathy has been a true inspiration to me, both personally and in my professional life. I hope to return to Jinja one day, and help to continue the great work she and Martin started. Kathy, who was such a wonderful and selfless lady, touched many people with her kindness and warmth. She showed great love not only to her family and friends, but to the hundreds of people she has helped through Act4Africa. She was an inspirational woman, and I feel blessed and honoured to have known her. Dr Katie Stout
Kathy had heart of gold and was always warm to those around her. I keep on recalling the last time she was here with one of her best friends Hilary.The aspirations and future plans that she kept mentioning of where she desired to see Act4Africa clearly exhibited her love and passion to a hurting world. We shall greatly and dearly miss a mother, teacher and a great inspiration who stood against all odds to make a difference in lives of people here in Africa. Patrick Kigongo, Act4Africa Uganda General Manager
Itâ€™s hard to capture my memories of Kathy in a snapshot but the overwhelming memory for me is of an earth mother with no ego. Kathy was at her happiest when she was rolling up her sleeves and organisingâ€¦..everything and everyone! Meals, flights, accommodation, training, transfers, toursâ€¦..everything was tackled with the focus and attention to detail that any staff sergeant would be proud of. She took every tactical problem that Act4Africa faced and turned it into a practical solution. But woe betide anyone who tried to put the spotlight on her and herald her achievements.
She would take no credit for Act4Africaâ€™s success, preferring to reflect any praise onto her African teams, the UK staff and the generous donors who made her dream possible. She always declared that she set up the charity â€˜because I wanted to travel in Africa when I retiredâ€™. Knowing the personal, emotional, financial and physical costs that such a commitment to the most challenging of causes had on her and the family, I knew that there were a thousand easier routes to choose from if, â€˜having some nice holidays in far flung landsâ€™ had been the true reason behind her intent. She did it because she cared so passionately about the people of Africa and, in spite of the mountainous challenge that she took on in tackling the AIDS pandemic, she couldnâ€™t stand by and watch the people of Africa suffer. Because of her efforts, nearly 1.3 million young people have hope for a better future, a future without AIDS. Only God knows how many lives have already been saved from a senseless disease due to Act4Africaâ€™s intervention.
The one thing she used to say to me, as she neared her graduation to the next life is, â€˜Donâ€™t anybody paint me as a bloody saint when Iâ€™m gone Lily. Iâ€™m only a school teacher who loved my kids and loved to travel.â€
And what a teacher she was. Lily Newman, Morgan James Consulting
Kathy was a mother goose; a fierce and incredibly caring figure. She refused to back away from conflict and did not suffer fools lightly! It was brilliant to learn from someone who cared enough to be fierce when things weren't right or the values and people she cared for were threatened. What an incredible asset in the Act4Africa arsenal she was. This fierce nature is why I respected Kathy so much but her huge warmth and concern for people is what won me in the first place. From her embrace as I wept after first visiting a man dying of AIDS to the steely confidence she had in my ability as a young leader, my life has been enriched by her nurturing and love. I don't think I ever heard Kathy preach but I know her life devoted to the cause of others fuels my resolve today and has ruined me for any attempt at comfortable Christianity. What a legacy she has left in the hearts of those who knew her.
David Baker, Act4Africa Trustee
Kathy was a person who had a big heart for Africa with a motherly feel for the hurting people with HIV/AIDS. To the team of Act4Africa she was great encouragement and motivator. May the Lord bless her soul.
Martha Bonny, Act4Africa Uganda Financial Manager
We have set up a fund in Kathy's name, and are working on some exciting plans for an ongoing legacy for the people of East and Southern Africa in her memory. If you would like to donate please click the Donate button at the top of the page.