My colleague Madeleine Sharp, with whom I worked on delivering aid to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, has died aged 93. She was a dedicated campaigner for oppressed people all over the world.
She was born in London, but the family moved to Newcastle when her father’s work as a patent agent moved out of the capital. Her mother was the secretary of the British/Russian friendship society, and it was probably she who encouraged Madeleine to go into medicine. Her family could not afford to send her to medical school, however, so she began training as a nurse and enlisted in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, serving in India.
This experience had a profound effect on her and she would spend the rest of her life campaigning for peace and seeking ways of helping the poor and sick of south-east Asia.
At the end of the second world war she fulfilled her wish to become a doctor. With the advent of the National Health Service, she was able to get a grant to study at Edinburgh University. Shortly after qualifying, she answered an advertisement for a locum at a practice in Coventry. The temporary position there soon became a permanent one and grew into a partnership in the practice, where she worked as GP for 30 years.
Madeleine joined the movement that protested about the US involvement in Vietnam. In 1965 she became a supporter of the Medical Aid Committee for Vietnam, combining both aspects of her life’s work. The following years saw her involvement increase in both the charity, which became Medical and Scientific Aid to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and her peace campaigning, while continuing as a much-loved and respected GP. She took on the role of honorary secretary to MSAVLC from 1987 to 2009, and for many years she was also chair of the City of Coventry Lord Mayor’s Peace Committee.
Madeleine first visited Vietnam in 1989, and made numerous trips there to see the many projects supported by MSAVLC. She was always a welcome visitor to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and made many friends; her last visit was a three-week tour in 2009.
She was appointed MBE for services to human rights and humanitarian causes in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in 2002. She received the Coventry peace prize in 2004, the Vietnamese government’s Order of Friendship in 1992 and its Order of Merit in 2013.
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