When Kathi Scott left Dromore at the age of 19 she never imagined that she would end up working for a world icon.
Kathi, a former pupil of St Patrick’s High and Banbridge Academy, is the executive director of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund UK.
She has worked for the organisation set up by Mr Mandela to support charities and community based organisations in South Africa for 17 years, meeting the former president on numerous occasions.
The reach of the charity’s work is wide - helping children orphaned through HIV/AIDS, counselling and protecting those who have been abused or at risk of abuse and making sure that the communities in which they live are stronger in the long term.
Kathi started working in administrating fundraising activities before taking up her current post in 2001.
She commented: “My dad told me about Mr Mandela but never in a million years did I think I would end up working for him.”
“I fell into it and it is such an honour. A wonderful mentor from a law firm I used to work for recommended me for the post in 1996. I jumped at the chance and I haven’t looked back since.”
Kathi who also is a supporter of the Integrated Education Fund, played a key role in organising a star studded celebration of Mr Mandela’s 90th birthday party in London.
She said Mr Mandela was an “extraordinary man, a world icon, a symbol, but also a man who had strengths and weaknesses and someone who never worked as a lone agent”.
He always “encouraged us to smile”, she said.
“He taught us that with help from other people, you can make your mark on the world. That instead of always competing for power, we should give a voice to lesser known individuals, and be at ease with Kings and the common man.
“He drove us on to fight the increasing challenges that our societies are facing today and that all problems are valid. And he has taught us that happy endings are possible,” said Kathi.
Kathi explained she had been at the premiere of the film Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom at Leicester Square in London when news of the former president’s death broke provoking a “stunned silence” among the audience.
“It was a massive shock, it was incredible seeing the reaction of the audience, “ she said.
Kathi who regularly comes home to visit family added: “I will remember him as a man with incredible grace and forgiveness.”