Valerie Riches, the founder president and former director of the Family Education Trust, died earlier this year, aged 93. When I was first introduced to Family and Youth Concern, as it was then known, in 1993, Valerie Riches had been labouring on behalf of the family and the welfare of children and young people for over 20 years.
She was already over the normal age for retirement, yet such was her commitment and devotion she kept going. When she eventually stood down from the daily running of the organisation, she maintained a keen interest in the work, serving as a trustee and founder president.
Valerie was often a lone voice of sanity and clarity in a world of madness and confusion. She demonstrated great courage in standing up for attitudes and standards that had fallen out of vogue among those who prided themselves on being ‘progressive’.
In addition to parliamentary campaigning, she wrote articles and letters to the press, authored pamphlets and booklets, contributed informed comment in the press and media and organised research projects. She spoke at conferences in 30 different countries across five continents.
Her booklet, Sex and Social Engineering, went through several editions and was translated into a dozen languages. It remains in print in updated and expanded form under the title Sex Education or Indoctrination?
Through her tireless work, Valerie put fresh hope into despairing hearts. She exerted a much-needed positive influence in the midst of social decay, and she touched many lives throughout the world. It has been an honour and privilege to have known and worked with Valerie over the past 25 years, and to have entered into the fruit of her labours since becoming a member of staff in 2000.
She demonstrated a rare depth of devotion, courage and determination in her leadership of the work over its first three decades. Those of us who have followed are grateful for the firm foundations that she laid and remain ever conscious of the fact we are standing on her shoulders.