You may have wondered why I contacted some of you lovely women and girls in my life just recently with a strange request… well it was because I have been nominated to attend the United State of Women summit hosted by the White House on June 14th!
I have no idea if I will I will be invited to attend, but I submitted my blog about promoting equality and hope and a passion to change the world.
I also submitted a photo generator to promote the summit around the world and to show my support for girls’ education and gender equality, offering access for all girls and women around the world to better education.
Here is my story
My love story for learning and particularly for reading began at a very early age. I was a blessed child whose parents believed in school. They themselves had much humbler beginnings in the Republic of Ireland - going to school when they could, often without shoes my mother would tell me, being strictly disciplined by the nuns and a five mile walk each day (one way!) and this was only when there were no chores to complete on the farm. All of this is not so very long ago and a far cry from the “luxury” I enjoyed.
When I was very young my parents instilled in me a love of learning and reading, and an authentic desire and belief to make a difference in this world. I had regular bed time stories read to me by my father, not one out of a book, but ones from his imagination. There were stories about donkeys, rabbits and horses. This was amazing for a city kid growing up in urban London. I never wanted to go to sleep.
My mother was and still is my true inspiration, encouraging me to study, revising every exam with me about subject matter of which she had little knowledge , taking me weekly to the library (when if truth be told, she may have been too tired), to feed my insatiable desire and thirst to read. I ran, although this was probably not allowed to the “B” aisle to devour the next Enid Blyton book about tales of Malory Towers, the Secret Seven, the Island of Adventure, the Sea of Adventure and beyond!
When exam day came around, my mother would throw the broom after me
(Apparently an old Gaelic good luck custom), so the spirits would help me pass my exams… which worked!
I graduated from Liverpool University and made it my life mission to make a difference to kids throughout the world through education and the wonderful opportunity I had been given to study. I wanted to inspire them to read, think, create, be curious, work collaboratively, feel great about who they were, what they were doing and so they could be the best they could be!
It is a professional career to be a “pollinator” of minds that began in the poorest streets of the UK in Liverpool, to a global arena working with girls and women around the world. I seek to inspire, encourage, inform, educate them to ask questions and maximise their future opportunities.
I now have my own company Sunridge Associates TLC (www.tlcsunridge.co.uk) Sunridge named after my childhood home and TLC- Teaching, Learning and Conversation. I have the ambition to create a charitable trust to build a school for girls most needy in the world. I had the privilege of access to free education as a child and young woman without fear or discrimination and always with love, encouragement and optimism. This is what I would like to inspire in the girls around the world and in the woman I teach, coach and mentor now and in the future.
The path to this liberation, I believe, is through reading and the endless opportunities it gives you. I have been a “World Book Night” giver for the last five consecutive years, from the very beginning of its conception. This privilege has allowed me to spread my love of reading as each year I am given books from the Reading Agency to distribute to non readers or reluctant readers or those how have yet to still find the passion and escapism only a book can provide. It is such joy to see the spread of a smile and excitement as a girl or a woman receives a book for the first time.
I truly believe reading is the key to our freedom. It opens doors to opportunity, to imagine, to explore, to create, to know.
I would whole heartedly encourage you to read to your daughters, your nieces, your grand-daughters, your sisters, your aunties, your girlfriends and of course most importantly to your mothers!
If you want to find out more about my story and my passion to improve learning, please look at my website www.tlcsunridge.co.uk
I would love to hear your stories too,
Happy learning, Helen
Helen O’Donoghue - in the words of people whose lives she has touched.
“Helen inspired girls of all ages to look beyond their experience and life, to those less fortunate than they were. She invited me, as Founder of a charity looking after some of the most deprived children in the world in Darfur, Sudan, to show them how girls their own ages were living. She then used this to encourage them to take action. Now, many years later, some of the youngest children, now grown up are volunteering not just for Kids for Kids, but for many other people in need. It was Helen who opened their eyes to the world.” Patricia Parker MBE Founder, Kids for Kids
“As a female leader in education, Helen quickly became a generous role-model and mentor for me... and she has continued to provide this for me no matter where we both happen to be in the world. “ Anna Crawford, Australian children’s author based in Germany.
“Regarding helping girls and women I can confidently relate the inspiration, professional and personal support that Helen offered …most sympathetic support and empathy … Helen always has a ready ear and a very balanced perspective on many issues. “ Nick Hamer, Clavis International Primary School , Mauritus
“As a co-PTA president for several years, I saw Helen champion boys and girls equally. During the weekly Town Hall meetings, she made sure to celebrate and highlight girls accomplishments in newly learned musical pieces, acknowledging independent charity work contributions, invented dance routines and student selected songs to sing at choir recitals, just to name a few.” Annabel Wheeler, mother, London
“Helen has been an inspiring role model for female teachers in the school and greatly respected by all her colleagues. She has always been there for our family to give her invaluable advice on educational issues and has helped and encouraged us enormously. My child still talks about her all the time. Helen has been like the sunshine in my child's school ." Argyro Filiou, mother, London
'Helen has always been incredibly insightful, perceptive, encouraging and optimistic in the face of any professional or personal challenge. Helen will listen and help you to find your own solutions-she is a truly great mentor and has enabled me to become a better teacher, leader and person as a result. She has facilitated so many opportunities for children to become confident, independent and curious learners. She is a true champion of children's learning and always strives to encourage young pupils to have a growth mindset, to face every challenge and to never give up.'
Kate Benson, Head of Primary, Park Lane International School, Prague