OSA Alumni Award 2013 – Richard John

Richard M John – Lisvane and Scarborough College 1974-1985

Everyone knew Richard “Pooh” John was going to join the Army, but even he surely questioned his choices as he negotiated his way across war torn Bosnia to rescue the abandoned hospitals for handicapped children, in Drin & Backovici, west of Sarajevo – at the height of the Yugoslav conflict in June 1993.  However, this was his most challenging assignment to date; responsible for the lives of dozens of aid workers and journalists, as well as racing against the clock to save 247 children who had received no food or water for three days.

At Lisvane, his red jumper and love of honey quickly earned him the name of “Pooh”, a nickname that stuck with him until he graduated from Scarborough College in 1985, with four A Levels; the Head of Hartford Boarding House, a senior member of the CCF and a stalwart of the College rugby team.  He graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, commissioning into the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in 1986.

Despite rising rapidly to the rank of Major, Richard left the Army in 1994, but returned immediately to Sarajevo working with UNHCR, managing the airlift operation for one third of its duration, and leading aid convoys through front lines and providing a besieged city with 10,000 tons of food and medical provision every month.

This was the start of 20 years of work in aid and development, constantly pulling Pooh to places of conflict and hardship, using the skills and training provided by the Army, but drawing on the values instilled by, he says, “his parents and Scarborough College”.  His work has been at the heart of major world events, including post war Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Nepal.

More recently, Richard moved to Ethiopia where he worked on Human Rights programming, as well as initiatives to counter violent extremism in Somaliland.  This year he is working on Conflict Prevention initiatives in the Yemen, and is currently looking towards Syria for his next assignment.

Throughout his time in these fragile and violent places, he holds dear to himself the values and standards that he learnt in Scarborough College; he speaks of honour, integrity, team and family, and the school motto, “Pensez Fort” – Think Hard.

The Committee of the Old Scardeburgians’ Association were proud to award Richard “Pooh” John the 2013 OSA Alumni Award, in recognition of his achievements so far.