Liverpool Hope University has awarded honorary Senior Fellowships to two leading community and charity campaigners.
Lynne Tembey, former Worldwide President of the Mothers’ Union, and Reverend Canon Malcolm Rogers, of St Gabriel’s Church, Huyton, have made it their mission in life to improve the lives of others.
Their achievements were recognised during today’s Foundation Day service.
And here, in their own words, they describe their compelling work - while revealing what it means to be embraced and celebrated by Hope.
Based near Redcar, North Yorkshire, Cumbria-born Lynne spent 40 years helping countless families through Mothers' Union charitable projects across the globe, stepping down as Worldwide President of the Christian organisation in 2018.
She says: “Today, the Mothers’ Union is alive in 84 countries, with a membership of four million. And what do we do? We do the small, and the great.
“Gender-based violence, and peace and reconciliation, is one of the big programmes we’re involved with. And we encourage members to speak out if they see, or experience, any form of injustice.”
Since 2000, the Mothers’ Union has had a recognised voice at the United Nations, as they ‘lobby, campaign and speak to governments on particular issues.’
She adds: “And governments are listening. More and more people are recognising humanity’s inhumanity and saying, ‘this is not right’.”
In 2000, Lynne helped to launch the Mothers’ Union Literacy and Development Programme, a scheme primarily operating in Burundi, Malawi and Sudan, to help locals learn to read and write.
For Lynne, the implications are huge. She adds: “For one thing, it means not being cheated at the market anymore.
“And one horror story we once heard was a mum who sadly gave the wrong medication to her child because she couldn’t read the label. The child died.
“Now we have women who are very literate, and are teaching others how to read and write.
“We want people to stand on their own two feet, to raise them out of abject poverty and hopelessness, and into a better future.”
Closer to home, one of the key Mothers’ Union programmes in the UK sees members working in male and female prisons.
Lynne says: “We’ve created creches so that little ones can be looked after while mum or dad can go and visit, and we also speak to inmates on a one-to-one basis.
“Some have come to faith from conversations with Mothers’ Union members.
“One inmates even told us, ‘It’s the first time in my life that anybody has seen me as a human being’. And that’s what we should be doing.”
On a more local level, unemployment - and the effect that has on families - is a chief and pressing concern.
One Mothers’ Union scheme is called ‘Away From it All’, where the Union works with social services and the Church, to enable a family to have a break. Discretion is vital.
Lynne explains: “It is terribly confidential. Maybe your next door neighbour has benefitted, and you wouldn’t know. Which is very special and very much needed.”
Speaking about the award of her honorary Senior Fellowship from Hope, Lynne adds: “It is such an incredible gift that’s been bestowed upon me.
“I feel terribly privileged, and terribly unworthy.”
Reverend Canon Malcolm Rogers
Rev. Rogers is no stranger to Hope - having studied Music and IT as an undergraduate in the early-to-mid 1990s.
He laughs: “It feels surreal being back, but it’s a great honour to be here.
“I always remember a real sense of community and being part of an Ecumenical foundation was instrumental in my career trajectory.
“It’s a wonderful honour and a wonderful privilege. I’ve always had a huge affection for this campus and staff.
“Although the place has changed since I was here, it still feels like home.”
Rev Rogers spent time working on the infamous Falls Road, Belfast, around the time of the ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement in the late 90s.
Now Vicar at St Gabriel’s Church, Huyton, he’s committed to tackling community issues head on.
He organised a series of events in the wake of the racially-motivated murder of Liverpool teenager Anthony Walker, 18, in 2005, and still has strong ties to the family.
And he’s desperate to ‘empower young people’.
He explains: “When Anthony died, I became aware of the need for institutions, like the Church, to play a much greater role in the lives of young people.
“And education became absolutely key to that. I try and create space and opportunities for young people to learn about themselves, and each other, in order that they might be equipped to make a difference in the world.”
Rev. Rogers is also passionate about helping young people struggling with mental health problems.
He adds: “I’ve buried enough young people, particularly young men who’ve taken their own lives, to know the devastation that it causes.
“And when you have an event like that, you often have lots of other young people reaching out to you because they feel like someone has heard them.
“It’s really important for me to have a network of people I can signpost them to.
“I often also find myself supporting worried parents who feel paralysed by their situation.
“Crucially, it’s also about carrying forward stories of hope and transformation, where young people come out the other side.”
Rev. Rogers, like many others, is faced with the impact of austerity - with recent cuts to the number of community-facing organisations he and locals can rely on.
He says: “The Church is finding itself meeting quite an acute need - and the safety nets don’t seem as robust as they once were just five years ago.
“For example, we recently helped a woman with six children who had no food or electricity.
“She’d knocked on so many doors for help. We arranged to make sure she had food and money on the electric.
"The only thing she had in her cupboard was two tins of chopped tomatoes, and that was going to be the meal… for six kids.
“And that’s not an unusual experience. People get to crisis point and find themselves isolated more and more.
“I don’t like responding to calls like that because it almost normalises that experience. I want to shout it out and say, ‘This is horrific in modern society!’
“That’s why our foodbanks are absolutely vital throughout the diocese.”