HER work to create a unique haven for needy children in Kenya has already warmed countless hearts and produced countless smiles.
And now Sue Hayward’s work setting up and running the Happy House children’s home in Kenya, and the charity Children of Watamu, has earned her a place on the shortlist in the Most Inspirational category in the Inspiration for Women Awards.
The former Blackpool hotelier opened the Happy House in 2010, finished and furnished with much support from the Fylde coast, to take care of children in the Third World country, who had been orphaned, abandoned, neglected or abused.
Home to 59 children, the Happy House provides a safe place filled with love, care and attention for the children, as well as education.
Sue said: “The children who come are often neglected, abused and frightened.
“We try to weave the Happy House magic – which of course, means different things to different people.
“All the children welcome the new children, because they remember when they too were that child.
“From the moment a child comes in, they are given their own clothes, their own identity and a lot of care and love, as part of a big family.”
Sue said she was delighted to be short-listed for the award – especially as she was Lancashire Woman of the Year in 2008.
“I was thrilled, it’s brilliant – not for me, but for the charity, for the children, for the family.
“It helps raise the profile and brings it into people’s minds.
“I think it’s nice in general for people to get recognised for their hard work too.
“When I won Lancashire Woman of the Year I couldn’t believe it – it was just amazing.”
The Children of Watamu charity and the Happy House have grown and grown – with the need always there to help children.
Babies have been brought in to the home after being discovered dumped on rubbish tips, under bushes and children have had their lives turned around from living in slums, fending for themselves, eating scraps from neighbours to stay alive.
Sue had already developed three schools in Watamu before opening the Happy House, but is also running a school at the home.
Sue was nominated by former Gazette women’s editor Elizabeth Gomm, who left journalism in 2010 to become a voluntary organiser with the charity.
She said: “Manager, motivator, Mama – Sue is all these to the family she has created at Happy House.
“In more than 30 years as a journalist, I interviewed countless inspiring women who had done the most remarkable things to help others.
“Sue stands out from them all. She is truly an unsung hero and deserves public recognition.”
Sue is currently back in Blackpool to aid the fund-raising appeal.
She said: “I spend most of my time in Kenya and Elizabeth is the UK co-ordinator.
“Things have grown more since people like Elizabeth came on board.
“We have to keep going, we have a responsibility to our children and the need is sadly always there.
“For me it’s just about making a difference.
“It’s the smiles on the children’s faces and the love.”
Sue is one of six finalists in the running for the award, and will find out if she has won on October 3 at Cadogan Place, Chelsea, at a special event raising money for Breakthrough Cancer.
Anyone who would like vote for Sue, before the closing date of September 26, can log on to www.inspirationawards.com/voting