Chichester woman given MBE after 40 years of volunteering

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A Chichester woman has been made a Member of the British Empire (MBE), in recognition of more than 40 years of charity and volunteering work.

Rosamund Gentle, 73, from Chichester, is celebrating after she was named on this year’s King’s Birthday Honours List.

Mrs Gentle has spent most of her life working, fundraising and volunteering for children with special educational needs across West Sussex, in addition to holding down a job and raising four children of her own.

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Much of her volunteering work centres around Fordwater School in Chichester, which caters to children aged 2-19 with severe or complex educational needs. With one of her own children studying there, she joined Fordwater’s Parents, Teachers and Friends Association and soon became treasurer and, in that role, helped run the school’s toy library and fundraised for major additions to the school’s facilities, including computers and software to aid education, a new swimming pool with associated lifts and special facilities for an activity resource centre.

Rosamund Gentle, 73.Rosamund Gentle, 73.
Rosamund Gentle, 73.

She also volunteered for the Portage Service; a home visiting educational service for preschool children with significant educational needs, through which Rosamund conducted weekly visits to the homes of disabled children and offered vital support to their families.

That is just the tip of the iceberg for Rosamund, who has logged thousands of hours across forty years of tireless volunteering. She started her own charity in 1979, which continues to operate today, she worked as a ‘face to face’ befriender supporting the families of disabled children, and she supports the construction of vital community centres as a trustee of the FG Wooder Trust. Looking back, she’s not quite sure how she fit it all in: “Looking back I have no idea how I did it,” she said.

"I had a job and four children. I don’t know how I did it, but I suppose you do these things when you’re younger, you find a way.”

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Even so, delighted as she is by the MBE, Rosamund insists the real reward was helping all the people she did, in whatever way she could: “I met some absolutely lovely children and families,” she explained “and it’s that feeling of helping someone that’s the most valuable thing.”

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