A Harrow charity worker has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours List for her work helping young burns survivors in Africa.
Bronwen Jones, 58, of Rickmansworth Road, Pinner Green, founded the charity Children of Fire around 20 years ago, after she met a baby girl in a South African hospital who had been seriously burned in a shack fire.
Not only did Bronwen adopt the seven-month-old, along with another young burns survivor, she also went on to help countless others across South Africa, the Congo, and Tunisia.
With poor infrastructure and many people using open fires, the risk of burns in many African countries is much higher than in the UK.
Bronwen said: “The medal was a nice surprise. My kids are very impressed, they keep telling me that the Queen knows who I am.
“The children have arranged a concert for me when I next go back to South Africa and my son has already made me a congratulations card.”
Bronwen will formally receive her medal from Britain’s High Commissioner to South Africa in February, and will be invited for a tea party at Buckingham Palace this summer.
She lives half of the year in London with her adopted daughter Dorah, 21, Dorah’s adopted brother Sizwe 14, and her son Tristan, 24, and the other half near the charity’s base in Johannesburg.
She said: “The travelling back and forward doesn’t make one very sweet. I’ve held babies who are dying from their burns or from starvation, so when people complain about things in Britain it gets a bit difficult.
“I am in awe of the stoicism of South Africa’s poor. Their lives are literally burned to ashes in front of them and somehow they gather the embers of energy left, to start all over again. I know families who have lost everything they owned three times in three years, and yet they still manage to smile.”
Browen plans to go back to Johannesburg later this month where she will continue her work trying to get two children to the UK for treatment.
She said: “Foreign children are not eligible for free NHS healthcare, so negotiating a price with hospitals can be very expensive.
“Even with a medal you can never get too big for your boots, there is a still a lot of work to do.”
For more information on how to help Children of Fire, see their website www.childrenoffire.org.