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Outstanding volunteer praises charity

From left, Mary Faries, past president of Altrusa Bermuda branch; Norma Latham; Sylvia Silverman, international president and Jenny Gibson, current Bermuda president (Photograph supplied)

No one was more surprised than devoted philanthropist Norma Latham to get special recognition from the charity Altrusa International for her decades of good deeds.

The reluctant unsung hero said she wanted to use the occasion of receiving the group’s coveted Gabriel Crepeau leadership award for outstanding service as a chance to highlight the fine work of Altrusa, rather than talking about herself. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the charity’s founding, and the local club, one of Bermuda’s first service clubs, is the island’s “best-kept secret”, she said.

“I am not wealthy, but with a little bit of time and money you can do a lot,” Mrs Latham added.

“While I do a lot of things on my own, some I take to Altrusa, who have helped me with so many things.”

Bermuda’s club helped Mrs Latham build the Albriyas daycare centre in India after the tsunami of 2004 left many orphaned children, and the group was instrumental in getting a soup kitchen opened in her native Guyana.

“The main focus is on literacy,” she said. “But they do so much good that not a lot of people know about.”

Altrusa helps in all forms of volunteerism, and Mrs Latham’s busy schedule is a fine example.

Her gardening and baking help keep the charity running, but also help finance her own causes. In addition, Mrs Latham is a devoted volunteer for Habitat for Humanity through Christ Church in Warwick.

She bakes rotis, a staple in South Caribbean food, thanking the Bermuda College, King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and the Bermuda Red Cross for their support of the venture, along with her church.

Such is her service that she was bestowed the Crepeau award by the head of the global charity, Sylvia Silverman, in person at the group’s 60th annual spring conference.

But now her cause is for a new generation of volunteers to contact the local president, Jenny Gibson, to pitch in and help.

“They do a wonderful job, but they need help — and they need more people,” she said.

Altrusa gives to literacy causes such as the Reading Clinic and the Adult Education Centre, as well as refurbishing libraries in the island’s primary schools, and the group is marking its worldwide centennial by giving away books over the course of the year.

To join up or learn more, contact Ms Gibson at 238-7988 or jengibson@northrock.bm, or visit the site www.altrusa.org.