FORMBY MAN HONOURED WITH MBE
A Formby man who, 12 years ago, initiated a plan to help an impoverished area of Rwanda, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Professor Allan Hobson, 73, of Lime Tree Way, Formby, has been awarded the honour for his services to Rwanda and Liverpool.
Allan, a lay preacher at St Lukes Church, Formby for 25 years, and a retired head of Liverpool John Moores’ Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, modestly said: “It is a great honour, but I am aware that many others have contributed to it.”
It was in 2000 that he first went to Rwanda after an invitation from the Mid-African Ministry. As Rwanda was still recovering from the 1994 genocide, it was still a dangerous place. “In the north west of Rwanda, one area we were to visit, mercenaries from the genocide were raiding after fleeing to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there is still trouble to this day. Over 1m people had died in the slaughter and people in key jobs had been killed. I thought there is no way I would go out there.”
Said Allan: “It took me two months to decide whether or not to go. I felt the holy spirit was telling me to go, so I did.”
What Allan found was a country still in chaos. In Shyira, the remote hilltop village area that St Lukes Church now helps, Allan and his team found desolation everywhere. The hospital was wrecked from the fighting, poverty was immense, and the army was an ever-present sight. “This was a prime area for forcibly recruiting school children as mercenaries and stealing the few drugs the hospital may have. There had been fierce fighting here and many deaths. The hospital was war-ravaged and not fit for anyone let alone the sick, and the maternity building was badly damaged. There was only one newly qualified nurse. The schools were partly demolished with leaking roofs, and no desks or chairs for the pupils. The area was so impoverished”, he said.“There was a sad feeling about the place. No-one smiled, no-one was happy.”
He pledged there and then to find the means to repair the maternity hospital. But afterwards he wondered just what he had taken on! “I didn’t know how we would do it, but I just knew we had to try,” he said.
Since then Allan and others from St Lukes, Formby, set up the Shyira Trust (www.shyiratrust.org) and have raised over £200,000. They have rebuilt the maternity hospital, which has become so popular an extension is needed; replaced the decrepit homes of 14 child-headed families whose parents have died; totally refurbished the primary school; provided 156 children with secondary school fees; paid for a children’s centre which is still to be completed; trained two midwives – which has meant no maternal deaths in the last two years and a reduction in infant mortality; provided the beginnings of a coffee growing programme to sustain the local community; helped to build a ‘Living Hope’ centre to cater for trauma counselling, and a hospice. Formby Rotary has also contributed £56,000 to the progamme
His honour for the Liverpool part of his work comprises education where he and his team have helped involve Range High School, Formby, who correspond with pupils in Shyira, have Rwanda on their geography curriculum, and organised for two students to visit Rwanda. A teacher from St Lukes Primary School, Formby has also visited, as well as the deputy Head of Formby High School. The Head of Midwifery, from Edge Hill University has also made several visits to Shyira. A total of 29 different people from St Lukes, Formby, have visited Rwanda over the years, and 19 non-church members have also visited. The Trust has arranged for a dozen Rwandans to visit the UK to help them see how they can progress in their own communities back home, and Allan himself gives talks to help raise awareness and understanding.
“What is most important, though,” said Allan, “is the friendships that have been established. We have just returned from another visit and taken many letters out there and brought many back.”.
“However, there is still much work to be done and we will continue our fundraising,” he said.