Abandoned children’s charity director Paulene Harvey dies

A committed campaigner for equality, culture and equality, Paulene Harvey was the kind of person who knew how to hold her audience in the palm of her hand. She was a vital member of the multiracial staff and volunteers of Children’s Rights and Support Services (CRES) as a regular volunteer and office volunteer and then as an executive director who served with integrity, wisdom and skill for 20 years. The 14 trust members I worked with over this period all fell in love with her warm personality, cheerful smile and savvy business sense. They respected her work ethic, values and ability to understand the needs of children and young people and provide a place of respect, safety and support.

As a member of the Advisory Board I had the privilege of working side by side with Paulene and developing the skills and work ethic she instilled in us all. Since I joined as a young person in 2009 I have witnessed a distinct reduction in children becoming homeless and children without children and even fewer children who run away from home.

Paulene was passionate about pursuing the causes of respect and dignity as stated in children’s rights, for people of different races, religions and sexualities and against discrimination and bullying. She was instrumental in transforming the working culture at CRES. These changes in the way we approached children’s issues meant we became much more effective at connecting with children.

As our non-profit was at risk of closure we, like the previous group of volunteers, agreed that the staff and volunteers who were making a difference would continue to work there. The report our donors and trustees commissioned, entitled is an evergreen, suggested ways to ensure the end of financial stress and continued quality of work. The solution to all of our problems was radical: we saw, using a radical learning theory, that CRES was our university and the focus of the university was care.

As a result, Paulene took personal charge of an improvement programme for CRES which provided the link between vital strategic initiatives and the efficient delivery of delivery. Her dedication to CRES meant that the trustees knew each time they made an investment into CRES a percentage of their earnings were going to be invested in their staff and volunteers.

Paulene was in charge of these initiatives, which included training and recruitment for staff and young people, management and leadership development and most importantly a social media engagement programme designed to enable children and young people to be more included and understood by each other, parents and adults.

As a youth we launched a poetry contest and a textile competition which contributed to CRES and to the daily output of the charity. Paulene used her leadership skills to encourage the trust staff and volunteers to engage directly with children and young people by mentoring them and advising parents and guardians in the processes and to ensure that CRES was being run effectively.

Paulene also developed innovative HR strategies to ensure that team and team leaders were part of the decision-making process and that staff were in touch with their colleagues, clients and partners. As a result CRES has an excellent records management system to monitor every meeting and report whether participants complied with agreed objectives and goals. She had an incredible ability to listen and share and always looked for more ways of achieving goals.

When we were faced with the possibility of the closure of CRES in May 2016 we asked Paulene to undertake a review of the use of funding to see if the options for paying back money to debtors were still achievable. She confirmed she would do this work. With her encouragement we were able to repay £640,000 of debt, all at an interest rate of 0.5%.

Paulene loved her job as a charity executive but also loved her volunteering with the children and young people of south London. She made a real difference to their lives.

• Paulene Harvey, aged 50, died at her home on 14 September.

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