A veteran government worker from Bexhill has been awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Mike Hammond, who splits his time living in Bexhill and South Africa, says he was ‘shocked’ to receive the honour in recognition of his 51 years working for the Department for International Development (DFID).
As part of his work, he has headed up development work in six countries around the world, helping to tackle poverty, disease and conflicts.
Reflecting on his career, Mike said: “I love my job, I really do. What the UK does to help people gets me out of bed in the morning even after all this time. I really do believe we can, and do, make a difference. The day I wake up and I no longer believe that will be the day I walk away.
“I’ve had a brilliant life. I’ve been to some wonderful places, met some amazing people and worked with some equally amazing colleagues. I have done some incredible things; I’ve seen things, I’ve had experiences. Sometimes pretty horrible – DFID operates in some of the most challenging environments in the world – but some good things too, things I can look back at with pride and say: I did that, I helped those people.
“The honour is really special but for me it is also for all the people I have had the pleasure of working with over the years who have helped me along the way.”
Mike joined DFID – then the ministry of Overseas Development – in 1966, coming straight from school after completing his A-Levels. In that time Mike has worked extensively in Africa including in: South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Rwanda and Botswana. He also worked in Uganda to tackle the Aids epidemic in the 1980s, which he described as the “most heart-wrenching crisis” he ever experienced.
Mike said: “People were dying everywhere from this mysterious illness that no one understood, 13-year-olds were suddenly becoming the head of their household, having no time to grieve the loss of their parents. It was truly heart-breaking to witness. Where we were working it tested everyone’s faith – that’s how bad it was.
“I helped to start an Aids support organisation which provided counselling and a future role for HIV sufferers as well as the usual education, food, water, medicine. Tackling HIV has remained a passion ever since because I saw what it did and how it was misunderstood.”
Despite working overseas for more than two-thirds of his career, Mike says he still misses his own family – of two children, three grandchildren and his 100-year-old mother – in Bexhill .
He said: “We’re a very close family and they have visited many of the places I have worked so we always have lots of memories to share.”