HEAL lost one of its most committed UK supporters when farmer Jack Johnstone passed away earlier this year. But that wasn't the end of the story... because Jack had made plans to leave a £4,000 gift to HEAL in his will. Here, Jack's partner of 34 and a half years Fiona Wilson tells HEAL volunteer SALLY YOUNG why sponsoring children and becoming a firm friend of HEAL founder Dr Satya Prasad Koneru, his local GP - after a slightly shaky start - made leaving a lasting legacy so important to him
AT home, Fiona Wilson has a photograph of her granddaughter with a big box of chocolates taken at Dr Prasad’s house in Peterborough, when they went to deliver money raised from Jack’s funeral collection for the benefit of HEAL children.
Fiona is happy for us to tell the story of hers and Jack’s involvement with HEAL to encourage others to consider leaving gifts for HEAL in their will.
Jack passed away in October of last year after he and Fiona had become staunch followers of HEAL through their friendship with Dr Prasad, who recently retired from the Westwood Clinic practice after 35 years.
But Jack and Dr Prasad nearly never met at all.
Jack contracted polio when he was young and as a result his left arm was affected; this led to his belief in acupuncture and laser treatments.
When his own doctor was due to retire, Jack asked him to recommend another GP to help him and he recommended Prasad. Fiona recalls Jack’s reaction at the time … ‘I don’t think I’m going to like an Indian as my doctor’.
However, everything turned out for the best as Prasad eventually became so much more than a doctor for Jack. “Dr Prasad became such a good friend,” says Fiona. “Jack used to say that just going in the door to see Prasad made him feel better.”
Prasad didn’t mention HEAL until about three years into Jack’s treatment and since then Jack and Fiona have been avid supporters. They loved to see the pictures and hear Dr Prasad’s stories about building a new village – ‘Paradise’ – and to see what it has become today.
Jack and Fiona have sponsored children at HEAL for longer than Fiona can remember – the first little girl they sponsored is now married and another young boy they sponsored, Upendra, is now 16 and growing up fast.
Jack and Fiona ran a farm and, as a result, they weren’t able to go to India or visit any of the HEAL projects, but they did keep in touch a lot with their sponsored children, particularly at birthdays and special occasions like Christmas.
Fiona loves to receive pictures of their sponsored children holding gifts purchased with money that the couple sent over each year.
The couple also enjoyed attending HEAL’s annual India Night celebrations, where they would hear all the latest news and developments taking place at HEAL’s various projects.
And so to Jack’s legacy and the difference this will make to HEAL. After discussing this with Dr Prasad, Fiona believed that the will gift could be used to fund solar lighting to prevent trips and falls around the Paradise Village site after dark. Another appealing idea was the purchase of a kiln for the children to make pottery.
And one lasting legacy mentioned by Dr Prasad is the planting of a tree and plaque in the grounds of Paradise Village in Jack’s memory and to recognise his kindness and lifetime support.
But Fiona admits that Jack would have been very pleased with however the funds were used, safe in the knowledge they will be put to best use as and where required under the watchful eye of his former doctor and friend.
• If you would like more information about leaving a gift to HEAL in your will, please get in touch with Sally Young for a chat (telephone 01733 245647, or mobile 07808 935968) or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find more information on legacy giving in the How to Help section of the HEAL website www.healcharity.org
Jack and Fiona have sponsored children at HEAL for longer than Fiona can remember