Helen Bamber OBE has passed away

It is with deep anguish that we announce our Founder and inspiration, Helen Bamber OBE, passed away on 21st August 2014 at the age of 89. Helen was a revered human rights icon, a cherished mother and a treasured colleague and friend. She was renowned for the pursuit of dignity and human rights for those who suffered the worst of man’s inhumanity.

For almost seventy years, Helen dedicated her life to those who suffered torture, trafficking, slavery and other forms of extreme human cruelty. She began her career aged 20, working with survivors of the holocaust in the former concentration camp of Bergen Belsen. Since 1945, she has helped tens of thousands of men, women and children to confront the horror and brutality of their experiences.

Helen’s attentiveness and focus on the individual, gave her the ability to navigate the complexity of trauma and the human responses to it. She remained unyielding in her instinct to understand, and pioneered methods to help those she worked with to achieve what she termed ‘creative survival’. The integrated model of care that Helen developed is still used today. Helen had the ambitious pursuit of compassion and was relentless in achieving this for those she worked for.

The gift that Helen gave to so many was to enable them to find their own way of surviving. She did this for every person who came to her because to Helen, the individual mattered. She did this for her clients, she did it for us, and now we do it for thousands of people every year. Helen always led by example, selfless with her time and energy until she retired due to ill-heath aged 88. We are honoured to hold her distilled wisdom to provide dignity through treatment, whist bearing witness and listening to pain as if it were our own. The Helen Bamber Foundation is her legacy. The team here commits to continue her work and make her proud.

One of Helen’s sons, Jonathan, says: “It is hard to put into words the pride I feel for what my mother achieved in her life, the thousands of lives she touched and the incredible difference she made to so many. She was an inspiration to everyone who knew her and a beacon of hope for humanity.”

Our Executive Director, TJ Birdi, adds: “Helen’s lifelong ability to always speak truth to power was a quality that is rare and has inspired so many. Always working with the most vulnerable and marginalised, in the most difficult of circumstances, with Helen it was possible to stand at the edge of the world and know how to first find, and then hold an ember of life after atrocity. Refusing to be a bystander, her lifelong ability to represent those whose voices have been taken away was a rare and inspiring quality that earned her respect at the highest levels.

Helen’s iconic status as one of the top 100 women of our time represents the strength in her belief of finding and maintaining dignity for others. Through doing this, she believed we found dignity and humanity in ourselves.

Tens of thousands of survivors and their families know that Helen personally changed their lives, and many more have been spared further atrocity by her work. I will be eternally grateful to have worked alongside her. She is the heroine in so many people’s stories and we, together with an extraordinary team, will in turn bear witness to her story by leading her Foundation to change more lives.

Helen’s family and the Foundation have been deeply touched by the many offers of support we have received. It is their wish that donations be sent to the Helen Bamber Foundation. We have a memorial fund in her name.

Details of a memorial service to celebrate Helen’s life and work will be released shortly.