Monday, 22 November 2010

Alistair Henley and Henrik Beer

Alistair Henley right, with Jerry Talbot left. Photo: Jason Smith

With the death of Alistair Henley on 14 November 2010, gone is another person who knew Henrik Beer and who held him in high admiration. Both Jerry Talboy, pictured above with Alistair, worked with Henrik. Often the three of us would talk about this amazing man who inspired us in the early days of our careers. Alistiar knew Henrik Beer when he worked for the British Red Cross in the late 70s, and came to Geneva in 1981, a year before Henrik's retirement.

Here is a small tribute I posted on Alistair, the day after his death:

On Sunday afternoon I was driving with my good friend Anuj Bahri, up to his house in the foothills of the Himalaya, for a few days break, when Alan Bradbury broke the news to me that Alistair Henley had  passed away while out walking in the hills. The sadness gnawed away at me most of the night as I thought about his works, and the grief and pain his family must be feeling.

Early Monday morning Anuj and I set off on our favourite walk, along a track which meanders through fields for two miles before the steep climb starts up the Himalayan foothills. Women were washing clothes on a rock slab at the side of the stream, straw-yellow haystacks dotted the fallow fields, and men tended the animals. .

We stopped at the historic temple from which Sidbhari gets its name.

While Anuj did his Puja, I offered a prayer to Alistair Henley, asking that he will find rest and peace, and that his family will be cared for by those who love and respect them

After saying a prayer for his departed soul, I sat down on a stone seat and thought of Debbie and the children, and how emphemeral human life is. I thought of the delightful evening I had with Alistair, Deborah and Jerry Talbot a few months ago, where there was lots of laughter, friendly banter and many reflections over a few glasses of red wine.We spoke of the three of us moving into the dinasaur catergory.

Quietly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a butterly, landing on a flower.

The butterfy seemed so free and was moving its wings, showing a rare beauty. Was it coincidence that in a Hindu temple in the Himalaya after saying a prayer for Alistair, a butterfly alighted next to me ? I photographed the butterfly and soon it flew gently away towards the high Himalaya. Alistair, I know your next journey will be one where, like the butterfly, you will gently soar higher, with freedom. and release.

I walked some miles further up a small path into the Himalaya and found a dry rock and sat down and gazed at the river flowing from high glaciers. I looked up, and these lines came to me.

  I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

My help cometh even from the Lord: who hath made Heaven and earth.

He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: and he that keepeth thee will not sleep.

Others will write of your deeds Alistair, which many of us know so well and were proud to be part of, but my thoughts are with you on the next journey. I know it will be higher than the Himalaya !

Like Henrik Beer, Alistiar will be remembered for his outstanding commitment and achievements for Red Cross.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Hans Hoegh, Henrik Beer's successor

Hans Høegh, former secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has died at the age of 84. With a lifetime of humanitarian activity at local, national and international levels, he should be recognized as one of our most active and enthusiastic promoters of Red Cross and Red Crescent principles and values.

When Henrik Beer retired in 1982, Hans took over the reins of the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (LORCS) from him.

Beginning in 1957, he managed many humanitarian projects for the Norwegian Red Cross. In the late 60’s, as Chairman of Norwegian Red Cross Youth, he initiated a campaign in which school children were encouraged to sell their drawings to family and friends. The money was used to create three Red Cross ‘camp schools’ in Norway which integrated disabled children with non-disabled. Mr Høegh’s purpose was to show that all people are equal. He was elected President of the Norwegian Red Cross in 1975, a post which he held for the next six years. During this time he worked closely with the LORCS secretariat and was a close friend and advisor of henrik Beer. As a young desk officer in Geneva I remember frequent visits by Hans and his secreatry general, Matt Hakkonsen.

He was Secretary General of the IFRC from 1982 to 1988. His legacy includes grouping relief and development specialists in common geographical departments. He is largely responsible for the introduction of computerized accounting, the establishment of a training unit, and the development of a much-improved pension scheme for staff.

His major initiative as secretary general was in the field of community health, with a focus on saving millions of children from fatal diarrhoeal disease. In partnership with WHO and UNICEF, he created a programme called Child Alive to spread messages on breastfeeding, good nutrition, personal hygiene, immunization and oral rehydration therapy. “Diarrhoea is so mundane, so familiar, so universal, that it is hard for many people to recognize it as the killer it is when it teams up with malnutrition and childhood diseases,” he told the League’s General Assembly in October 1983.

From 1988 to 1993 Hans Høegh served as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the Promotion of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons.

His last humanitarian project was the creation of A Better Life Foundation in 2000. Its aim is to improve the lives of some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people: the disabled, the elderly, the homeless and the marginalized. The Foundation also provides schooling for disabled children and runs community health programmes.
So another great Red Cross leader passes on and his deeds will remembered alongside of those of Henrik Beer.
Funeral services will be held on Monday 8 November, in Norway. The IFRC will send condolences to Mr. Høegh’s family and to the Norwegian Red Cross.