The amazing achievements of human rights hero Helen Bamber

Matthew Champion@matthewchampion
Friday 22 August 2014 11:10
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Helen Bamber, the celebrated champion of human rights, has died aged 89.

A trained psychotherapist, she spent almost 70 years tirelessly working with victims of torture and other forms of abuse. Here's a synopsis of her amazing career:

In 1945, aged just 20, she joined one of the first rehabilitation teams to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

After spending two years working with Holocaust victims she returned to England to help take care of 722 children orphaned by the concentration camps.

Helen’s attentiveness and focus on the individual, gave her the ability to navigate the complexity of trauma and the human responses to it. She remained unyielding in her instinct to understand, and pioneered methods to help those she worked with to achieve what she termed ‘creative survival’. The integrated model of care that Helen developed is still used today.

  • The Helen Bamber Foundation

In the early 1960s she helped set up Amnesty International and in 1985 she created the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

In 1993 she was named European Woman of Achievement; four years later she was made an OBE.

After the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999 she travelled there to work with survivors, having also worked in Gaza, Uganda, Turkey and Northern Ireland.

It is the total perversion of all that is good in human relationships. It has been described by one survivor as ‘the act of killing a man without his dying’. It is designed to destroy not only the physical and psychological integrity of one individual, but with every blow, with every electrode, his or her family and the next generation. The body betrays and is often discarded, a body to be hated for its scars and injuries, a body which is a constant reminder even if there are no scars or remaining injuries.

  • Helen Bamber's definition of torture

In 2005 she set up the foundation which bears her name, tasking it to help people who have experienced torture, trafficking or other forms of cruelty.

In 2012, aged 88, she retired, having dedicated her life to caring for and protecting the rights of the most vulnerable.

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