Hilary Thompson spent decades working in developing countries. Her job, initially with UK retailer B&Q, and then for 15 years as a Director of The Forest Trust, involved helping companies to make their supply chains more responsible. That meant from a human rights and environmental perspective, looking at labor issues and deforestation.
In quiet moments, for Hilary was never one for self-promotion, she would share the story of the time when a little boy gazed at her from inside a dark, putrid, oppressively hot, airless room at a brass factory in India. She would describe how all she could see in the soot-filled air were the whites of the little boy’s eyes, looking at her. Behind him, in the darkness, she could barely make out the shapes of other little boys, working away in the heat; the polluted air destroying their lungs and lives for a pittance, their little hands ideal for polishing hard-to-get at parts of the factory’s brassware. It broke Hilary’s heart that she wasn’t able to help that little boy, but in the moment they connected, she pledged to devote the rest of her life to doing whatever she could to support children to have a better future.
We lost Hilary from the world in May 2019, but her lifelong work to honor her pledge to that little boy has inspired so many people to do whatever they can for children and all workers.
To keep Hilary’s pledge alive, her family and Pond Foundation have together created Hilary’s Kids. As in all Hilary’s work, it acts at the absolute grassroots, with little fanfare, but with every act striving to make an immediate impact on children’s lives. Hilary’s Kids doesn’t set out to change the world. Its goal is to help each child it interacts with in a meaningful way. Hilary was a great believer in the power of education to help children lead full lives, especially little girls. In that spirit, Hilary’s Kids’ initial action will be to support kids’ education and livelihoods in rural communities in the Tamale region of northern Ghana, in partnership with Pond Foundation’s project with Singapore-based WhatIF Foods.
Hilary’s Kids supports communities in northern Ghana with:
- Education material provisions
Communities here lack even a small primary school but there are parents working to teach the kids at least the basics. Hilary’s Kids will support these communities, kids, and teachers with educational materials – books where that makes sense, notebooks, pencils, whiteboard markers, and flip charts. We create “learning kits” with these essentials for the kids, costing less than $2 each. Sometimes, showing up is what counts - we came into a community with the ambition to rebuild a crumbling school building, and once the local government got wind of an external organisation offering this, they came in and rebuilt the building themselves.
- A high-protein nutritional program
With our member WhatIF Foods, we are developing a high-protein nutritional program for children under 5, to prevent stunting in these rural communities. WhatIF Foods is developing a low-cost Bambara Groundnut-based milk powder made from local Bambara to fit this exact purpose and meet the nutritional shortcomings of the rural community diets.
- Medical supply provisions
Community and district medical centres in these rural areas often lack the most simple critical medical supplies that they need to treat patients. We work with local doctors, establish an understanding of the medications and supplies that are most needed, and provide those supplies.
- Innovative water filtration solutions
Communities suffer heavily from water-borne diseases, parasites, and bacteria from various contaminated water sources. We set out to address this issue using principles of large-scale water filtration systems with artisanal tools and materials, using small scale biological sand filters and activated carbon filters made with biochar.
- Water supply systems
Some of the communities where we operate suffer from a complete lack of freshwater supply at certain points of the year. We aim to address this with low-maintenance water collection and storage systems in those communities.
Louise and Adam Thompson, Hilary’s children, said,
Our mum dedicated her life to ensuring we were well cared for, happy and given every opportunity to achieve and prosper. She was also committed to giving greater opportunities to families and children around the world who were not as lucky or as privileged as we were. That is why we are very happy to see her life-changing work continuing in Hilary’s Kids.
Eric Coorens, as CEO of Dutch retailer Kwantum, a TFT founding member, worked closely with Hilary in TFT’s early days.
Hilary was one of these extraordinary people who put their actions where their heart is. Not talking about what should be done but doing what needs doing. She was a joy and an inspiration to work with in making the world better, always combining a wealth of knowledge with a keen eye for the less fortunate. Hilary’s Kids couldn’t be named better as it encapsulates so much of what Hilary stood for.”
Hilary’s Kids is starting small but we’re starting. We look forward to keeping you posted as to our progress.
Do you want to start a Hilary's Kids community regeneration program in your supply chain?