Tributes paid following death of former Blackpool hotelier who founded Kenyan children’s home

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A former Blackpool hotelier whose charity work has changed the lives of hundreds of Kenyan children has died suddenly of a heart attack.


Sue Hayward with some of the children at the Happy House

Sue Hayward with some of the children at the Happy House

Sue Hayward, founder of the Children of Watamu charity, died in hospital in Mombasa last week.

She and her husband, Dave, who for many years ran the Castlemere Hotel in Shaftesbury Avenue, moved to Kenya to live in 2010 when Sue achieved her long held vision of opening a children’s home, the Happy House, in the coastal town of Watamu.

Since that time the Happy House has become home for hundreds of children in need, some permanently, others on a temporary basis whilst their family has been in crisis.

Dave and Sue HaywardDave and Sue Hayward

She extended her work by opening a school on a site close by, which provides an outstanding education to children living at the Happy House and locally.

Even when she suffered breast cancer, she continued to run the Happy House from Blackpool where she was being treated, keeping in touch via daily Skype meetings.

Sue started her work in Kenya after visiting Watamu on holiday in 2000 and seeing the extent of the poverty and lack of schooling facilities.

This prompted her to found her charity in 2003, whose work will continue following her death, steered by Dave and the management team.

Sue travelled across the North West and beyond speaking about her work and raising money for her Happy House which opened 11 years ago. In 2008 she received the Lancashire Woman of the Year Award.

She said: “Our children have the best. I believe that is what every child deserves. They have their own clothes and belongings and, at our school, they are getting the best education.

“Everything we have at the Happy House and in school has been donated and we ensure that everything we receive, right down to the last shilling, the last grain of rice, is accounted for and that it goes exactly where it is intended – to our children.”

Dave, her husband of more than 50 years, said in a video made at the Happy House : “She was the love of my life.”

News of Sue’s death has brought tributes pouring in from around the world.

Chris Franklin a trustee of the charity said: “Sue was a loving, passionate lady who changed young peoples lives for the better. Her spirit will live on in all who met her. It’s was an honour supporting Sue and being a friend. ”

Elizabeth Gomm, a charity volunteer and long-time friend of Sue, said: “Sue was an inspiration and a woman of great courage. She committed herself completely to the children of Watamu and the surrounding area . She and Dave gave up everything in the UK to devote all their time to running the project and her legacy is immense.

“Working in another country is never easy but Sue was able to win the respect of all those she met and was much loved by those she employed and a real Mama to the children in her care . She was not just Mama to the children but to the whole community of Watamu and beyond.

“She will be very much missed but her Happy House legacy will live on, just as she intended.”