Helen Bamber OBE dedicated her life and work to supporting survivors of torture and human cruelty for more than 70 years. Helen began her career in 1945 at the age of 20 when she went to work with survivors of the holocaust in the former concentration camp of Bergen Belsen. Many thousands remained in the camp until the early 1950s, unable to find a country willing to accept them. “Our job,” she said, “was to resource and strengthen the survivors, to find meaning for their survival.” Finding meaning for survival became a theme throughout her life’s work and remains a cornerstone of the work that we continue today.
She was an early member of Amnesty International and in 1985 established The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, where she was a guiding light until early 2005. Named European Woman of Achievement in 1993, she was awarded the OBE in 1997 and in the same year also received a lifetime Human Rights Achievement award for her work. She was on a number of advisory boards in related fields and held honorary degrees from 11 universities, including Dundee, Ulster, Essex, Kingston, Oxford Brookes, and Hull University.
At the age of 80 – Helen founded the Helen Bamber Foundation with the sole purpose to provide care, safety and dignity to those who had nowhere else to turn. In her mind, whether you had suffered state sponsored torture, or had been brutalised by criminal gangs, trafficked for labour or sexual exploitation, or had suffered prolonged domestic violence, in her mind – that constituted torture. The Foundation extends the model of care that Helen had developed over decades for survivors of state torture, to include a wider range of people who previously lacked such specialist support.
In 2012, it was recognised that Helen, who was in her late 80s, would eventually have to step back from the day to day running of the Foundation. A number of appointments were made in key areas to ensure consistent delivery and high standards of Helen’s therapeutic approach could continue at the Foundation. Then, in 2013, after eight years of successfully leading the Foundation to international recognition of its specialist work and helping countless more survivors, Helen assumed the new role of Director Emeritus (having previously been our Clinical Director).
Helen Bamber, 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. Helen dedicated her life to the care, protection and rights of the most vulnerable. Since starting the Foundation in 2005, she led and inspired us to continue her lifework.
Today – our team consists of GP’s, psychiatrists, psychologists, body experts, therapists, lawyers and welfare and housing experts. We are honoured to be the custodians of Helen’s legacy and distilled knowledge to support the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society.