It’s with great sadness that we say goodbye to our friend and supporter Karen King, who passed away just before Christmas.
Karen met Mike Sansom, the founder of African Initiatives, when he delivered a workshop as part of Africa Focus Week in 2002. She was working for Bristol City Council to increase employment and economic inclusion in disadvantaged communities and spoke with him afterwards.
“Karen quietly came up to me with some (justifiable) concerns about the impact this might have on council services. Her questions were measured, sensible and she brought a level of scrutiny; a kind of gentle and nudging accountability, that the organisation (and especially myself) needed.”
Mike was so struck by her intelligence that he immediately asked her if she would be interested in joining the board. With characteristic humility Karen said she wouldn’t have much to offer. In fact the opposite was true and we were lucky to have her as a trustee for fourteen years. Karen was Chairperson for five of those years and brought her background in regeneration and economic development as well as a quiet determination and precision to the role.
Karen had worked in the voluntary and public sectors in the UK and spent two years as a VSO volunteer in Kenya, supporting a project assisting disabled people to secure sustainable livelihoods. Her time in Kenya had given her a life-long interest in the African continent and a loyalty to her formative experiences there.
According to Mike, under her stewardship, African Initiatives’ governance and management improved immeasurably. Later, at a time when African Initiatives – and most small NGOs – faced extinction, Karen handled all the transitions so calmly and above all was incredibly supportive of the staff facing an uncertain future. Without her solid and caring presence, we have no doubt that African Initiatives would not have survived.
“Karen was one of the very good people; never flashy or flippant, always humble, loyal, so solid and dependable, a quality that is only recognised when it is gone. She generously offered her time and reflections and advice – always personable, always sociable and engaged.”
How lucky those of us who knew Karen and those whose lives were touched by hers have been.