Past Pupil, Adrienne made MBE in New Years Honours List


Dunluce has a very real reason to feel proud at the start of 2018 as Adrienne Lavery, a former pupil, was named in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. She will be travelling to the Palace in May for the investiture, and will then be known, officially, as Warrant Officer Adrienne Lavery MBE.

King George V created the MBE medal, “Member of the British Empire’ during World War I to reward services to the war effort by civilians at home and servicemen in support positions. They are now awarded to those making distinguished or notable achievements or service in the community.

I spoke to Adrienne to find out a little about what she has been doing,

 

How did you get involved in your work in Sierra Leone and what it involves?

I was seconded to the Foreign Commonwealth Office as the Assistant Defence Attaché to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea in Nov 15. My original assignment was for a three-year period based at the British High Commission in Freetown. My role is primarily defence diplomacy providing military advice and assistance to the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF). I am basically a representative of the UK Ministry of Defence.

Having arrived in Freetown during the Ebola crisis I was not sure how I would adapt to my new surroundings. I had been on Exercises in Kenya so I had an idea of what to expect in terms of poverty. I obviously knew the history on Sierra Leone and the civil war. Security was my major concern but once I arrived my mind was quickly put at ease by the welcome I received.

During the Ebola crisis, many people were on lock down and in quarantine. Christmas was fast approaching and the Ebola crisis looked like it was coming to an end with individual cases presenting at times in Sierra Leone and Guinea. I was on duty over the Christmas period and it was very quiet with little or no celebration at thetime, only reflection and grief.

I returned to the UK in January 2016 and decided I needed to do something to help the children who had suffered and my immediate thought turned to those that had been orphaned. Football in Africa is huge, even bigger than what it is in the UK. I was keen to encourage the females to participate and identified a way forward to incorporate the values and standards that has been set over me for the past 20 years building relationships and confidence along the way.

I started by contacting the Premier League football clubs with a request for any unwanted items in hope that my British High Commission signature block would be influential. It all started here as I had responses from Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton, Man Utd and the England FA. Local clubs and friends also assisted me with donations.

 

During my leave I would drive to and from the clubs collecting and then drop the items at Milton Keynes to be forwarded to Freetown.

All of this was done originally to try to help in some way as well as giving me something to do outside of the office. Defence Engagement entails multiple tasks and one of those is outreach to local communities to enhance the reputation of the Ministry of Defence and the British High Commission, as well as enabling those who were at disadvantage.

Reaching out to the local communities where children are underprivileged and vulnerable is and will continue to be an important aspect to me. To see children without the basics is heart breaking and you feel a very strong sense of what is right and wrong. It made me feel angry and inspired me to do something no matter how big or small. I just knew I had to do something. The male population very rarely allow females to take part, therefore, I decided to use the kit I had to set up football tournaments between members of the poorest communities in Freetown, to try and bring people together and strive for equality for the female population.

What do you feel are your success stories any that stand out?


The greatest achievement for me personally was finding Heaven Homes in Joe Town just past Waterloo. It was completely off the beaten track. Heaven Homes was set up by a lady called Kippy and looks after 56 orphans. When I first arrived, there were two small bungalows with bunk beds for the children. The rooms did not have much bedding or items. Clothes were in plastic bags at the end of their beds. I noticed scriptures from the bible had been written on bits of paper and stuck to the head of the beds so they could read them at night. There were a few random toys but not enough to go around.

I decided to make a list of things I thought I could help with. We have various Royal Naval ships visit us and I made contact early to see if I could come by materials such as bedding, curtains or sports kit. Luckily, HMS Portland arrived with a large quantity of items and equipped the rooms out. They also painted the bungalows and the school with the help of the children.

The children in the orphanage had a huge pull on my emotions, they had been through so much and I vowed to return on a regular basis. On my next visit I brought footballs, clothing, books and footwear.

I volunteered to do the duty the following Christmas. I thought about the time I had previously been deployed over the festive period in Iraq when we were given Christmas boxes. I utilised my Facebook to canvas for Christmas boxes for the children. I believed I would hit my target as 56 was an easy number even if I bought the items myself. I had an amazing response and more boxes than I anticipated. I asked DFID/ UK Aid for anything that was left over and was given two generators and a TV. I donated my DVD player and some films. I organised a visit just before Christmas and this was without doubt a personal highlight. The children were so grateful and I realised the impact we had made. The Christmas box appeal is now something that we do as part of Defence Engagement and will continue to do so for many years.

There had been numerous other smaller projects throughout the last two years that I have instigated such as knitted hats for the babies in the hospital as they have no incubators to 5 A Side Football League for all the locally employed staff. I did not envisage 0800hr starts on a Saturday morning, week in week out for me personally but realised the importance of my attendance in order to show my support. I have had numerous meetings with the Minister and Director for Sport pushing for hockey to be developed into the local schools. I have assisted in setting up the Sierra Leone Hockey Association and secured hockey equipment from the African Hockey Federation and this is now starting to take off. To give something back to your Sport on a national level will also be a great achievement in time.

When did you find out you were being honoured and how did it feel?

I returned to the UK for Christmas and was informed I had been awarded an MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List 2018 a week before it was officially announced on the 29th December 2017. I was visiting my sister at the time when my boss called me. I was totally overwhelmed and could not really believe it was happening.

To do something that you are truly passionate about is great but the rewarding part is seeing the impact it has on others. Sierra Leone is a fantastic Country, the people have taught me a lot and I have been truly inspired and humbled above all else. To be recognised is amazing and it will be a nice way for me to reflect on everything that was achieved during my time in Sierra Leone.

What do you remember about your time at Dunluce?

My time at Dunluce was great, I chose it because it had the best hockey pitches and I remember refusing to go anywhere else. I just knew and I had no fears of starting secondary school at all. I absolutely lived for the days we had hockey matches, PE or Games on the timetable.

I think that changed around third year when I realised that I needed to focus slightly more in class. I was moved up from a B class to an A class. I recall the teachers rounding on Mr Page; the headmaster at the time and he made me promise that I would work hard if he agreed 

to the move. I wanted to be moved up as French was only an option for the A class pupils. I felt the pressure slightly at the time as I did not want to let an

yone down. Mrs Mc Mullan-Fleck had taken a lot of time to help me and even in her spare time after class.

I have never forgotten anything that the staff did for me, whether that was being made the Captain of the hockey team or a Prefect. I was always encouraged to do better and try harder it just took a while for me to realise there was more than hockey.

Dunluce shaped me massively, there were times I was going off the rails but I was soon brought back into line. I never wanted to be the goody two shoes type of individual and was at times strong willed. My sense of humour would often land me in trouble or I would get away with it. The teachers I had knew me well and knew how to get the best out of me. If it wasn’t for them I am not sure where I would have ended up. I was taught a lot more than the subjects I chose at the time. I think the biggest impact by far was Mrs Mullan-Fleck. I was a nightmare to begin with but thankfully she did not hold a grudge and really went to great lengths to help me. I think this is probably one of the reasons why I am the way I am in terms of going the extra distance for others.

My advice for anyone that currently attends the school is to enjoy it, the more you put in the more you will get out. I absolutely loved the place and can only thank the teachers who were truly there for me. I was told by Mrs Adjey who was the PE teacher at the time; life is what you make it. She was spot on. I have absolutely no regrets and I would choose Dunluce all over again.

What is next?

My time in the Army has been incredible, I have travelled to places I normally wouldn’t and I have experienced things that normal people never will. The friendships I have made will last forever and the responsibility that is placed on you at such a young age 

makes you a lot more versatile and robust. The adventure and the sporting opportunities are second to none. Now that I have been awarded the MBE I am considering leaving the Army after 22 years of service. I have considered the option of a commission but I would really like to explore overseas development projects outside of the military.