Christmas will never be the same again.  At least, it will never sound the same.

Every year, for (mumbles indeterminate number under breath) years, Christmas Day in the Allen household has been marked at 3:00pm by the distinctive voice of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.  The washing-up has to be done, the coffee made, and, in the days when sugar wasn’t a health issue, the homemade fudge handed out. Hearing her regal tones has been as important for the success of the day as the turkey, the tree, and the Christmas cake. 

But now it is in the past.

I don’t know why this thought stirs up so much emotion in me.  After all, as a child I couldn’t wait for it to be over so that we could get on with the serious business of opening presents.  And then, once I was old enough to decide for myself, it had become so integral to the day it didn’t feel right to skip it.

To be honest though, I was tuning in for the glimpses of grand decorations and video memories from the year.  Her actual speech often went in one ear and out the other.  I was so mesmerised by her voice, I didn’t hear her words.

So often we don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone.



During the days of National Mourning, story after story poured out into a stream of collective grief.  Stories from people who’d had moments of connection with Queen Elizabeth, and who all recalled her ability to remember the details, to show genuine interest, to leave an unforgettable impression. A Queen who was kind.  A Queen who cared.  A Queen who loved. 

In the process of writing this article I’ve had cause to read through some of the Christmas broadcasts and I’ve been struck by the consistent simplicity of her message – be kind, love, and serve.  Every year she spoke of the qualities she valued the most; qualities which she faithfully demonstrated throughout her life. 

In her 1980 broadcast, the Queen quoted Tennyson’s “In Memoriam”:

“Ring in the valiant man and free,

The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be”.


Whilst this was intended at the time to be an exhortation to live our lives well, I see this as a fine epitaph for a woman who dedicated her 70 year reign to loving and showing kindness.  Hers was indeed the “larger heart, the kindlier hand”.

You may be wondering by this point how this all pertains to Amigos.  Did Phil Pugsley, the founder, meet Her Majesty?   Did she stay at Kira Farm in one of her overseas trips?  Did she sponsor a child?  Probably not.



For me, the link is illustrated in her broadcast in 2008:

“When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat;

instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future”

Whoever we are, wherever we are in the world, we will have hardships.  Those hardships will look different and will be relative, but they will require courage nonetheless.  For all her privileges, the Queen still experienced hard things, yet she demonstrated a determination to push through. 

Ugandans have known years of war and displacement.  Theirs has been a hardship we in the UK cannot even imagine.  Yet, at Kira Farm Development Centre, we see students each year who are determined to “struggle for a better future”.  Through vocational training and holistic life-skills these students are given skills and tools to build their own businesses, and go on to impact their communities for good.

Their courage to push forward is strengthened by the Amigos team and by their fellow students, as one woman described:

“The love I received on Kira (Kira Farm Development Centre) was phenomenal and I soon came to realise that I was not alone in the trials and pain I had endured.”  Winnie Babi




The Queen showed a capacity to forgive, shaking hands with those responsible for killing Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten.  She strove for peace and reconciliation, investing herself in leading the Commonwealth of Nations which was to be “built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty, and the desire for freedom and peace.” (Queen Elizabeth, soon after her ascension to the throne in 1952).

The vision of Amigos is for people and communities across Uganda to be whole and thriving.  This means not just providing vocational training, but giving the students the tools needed to bring peace to their families and communities through training in conflict resolution.  This “high quality” of peace is essential, and is utilised in so many situations.  Such as Patrick’s:

“I learnt conflict resolution and construction skills when I was at Kira Farm. Since I graduated, I've been able to help solve many of the conflicts that occur on the construction site every day.”

Patrick, Orom.




The Queen was an inspiration to women in leadership.  I have heard several times in the last few weeks people refer to her “soft power” – her ability to assert herself with great grace and warmth, to garner respect and never be intimidated, despite her small frame.

Amigos provides opportunities for men and women to learn about sustainable farming, building, tailoring, hairdressing and much more, and gives them the skills to build their own business.  Many go on to not only run a business, but employ others, becoming leaders in their communities.  Thanks to the boreholes that Amigos supply to the communities, women, who have traditionally spent hours a day fetching water, can use their time to bring in their own income and support their family.

As Daphne says:

“My family used to live by begging but now we are suppliers…My mother can now keep us in school and provide us with all we need.”


We saw in Queen Elizabeth II a beautiful example of a life well lived.  Amigos desires to see disadvantaged Ugandans able to live their lives well. 

We hope Her Majesty would approve.