Former Welsh Water teacher recognised with British Empire Medal
6 April 2021
A former Welsh Water teacher has had her commitment to the development of education and sport in Rwanda recognised and been awarded a British Empire Medal.
Mary Watkins, who spent 13 years working as a peripatetic teacher at the not for profit utility company, has worked tirelessly to develop and deliver education resources for school children in Rwanda. This included developing resources for local children and helping train up future teachers in the area.
Mary’s love of Africa stemmed from a trip with the charity Wateraid to Uganda in 2008. The trip which included colleagues from Welsh Water visited communities to see how money raised by the business benefitted local communities. Welsh Water has raised more than £1 million to support projects to improve innovation, infrastructure, the installation of water pumps and water harvesting to improve sanitation and hygiene.
Mary , who joined Welsh Water’s award-winning Education team in 2004 from Gaer Primary School in Newport, was instrumental in helping to develop the company’s education strategy which delivers Centre based and outreach sessions to hundreds of thousands of pupils throughout our operational area. To date, the company has reached over 570,00 pupils since the programme was launched in 2001.
Following her visit to Uganda, Mary had an opportunity for a 12-month sabbatical in Rwanda volunteering with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) with her husband Glyn to support and train teachers and to develop resources for local primary schools. The couple fell in love with the country and visited every year after taking a keen interest in the local rugby team and have since been instrumental in collecting and distributing kit for the whole region. Mary left Welsh Water in 2018 to return to Rwanda for another 12 months placement with VSO yet again offering her valuable experience to provide training for teachers. Since 2018 they have been running the UK based charity Friends of Rwandan Rugby which employs Rwandan Rugby Development Officers to coach rugby in schools across Rwanda. Mary has recently set up a women’s cooperative in Rusizi district, fundraising and supplying 8 sewing machines and training to young female tailors who are now earning an income and sustaining their families. She has also helped one of her former students establish a nursery school in a remote corner of southwest Rwanda.
Claire Roberts Head of Community Engagement said “I’m not surprised by this well-deserved award. Mary’s commitment to making a difference to the people of Africa was obviously one of her life ambitions from her first visit. Her passion when she teaches is very inspiring, and the lesson `All about Water’ which she created following her visit to Uganda, proved to be one of the most popular lessons delivered at our Discovery Centres. She was a huge asset to the company and it’s great to think that thousands of children across Wales and Rwanda have benefitted from her enthusiasm and love of the job”.