CAN, the charitable office space provider, and Education Saves Lives, are very sad to confirm that their founder, Helen Taylor Thompson, passed away on Sunday September 6th, shortly after her 96th birthday.

Helen was instrumental in a number of charitable and social causes throughout her life, starting with her election to the board of the Mildmay Hospital in 1952. She later fought against its closure and became the chair when it reopened as the first hospice in Europe for people living with AIDS in 1988, perhaps best known for where Princess Diana famously shook hands with patients in an attempt to break the stigma around the disease.

In 1995, Helen’s organisation of The Great Banquet, which saw 33,000 people in London sit down together for a meal with others from all backgrounds, ultimately led to the launch of CAN, a network of social entrepreneurs who shared a commitment to tackle social problems through business.

Never one to stand still, Helen continued her work through the foundation of “Education Saves Lives” in 2000, originally known as “Thare Machi Education”, as a response to the growing numbers of people being diagnosed with HIV in Africa and Asia by providing DVDs with important information and education about serious illnesses.

The charity was officially launched in 2003 at 10 Downing Street with the support of Patron Cherie Blair. In 1990 Helen was awarded the MBE and in 2005, was awarded an OBE in recognition of her wide-ranging charity work. The BBC included her in their “100 women” list of inspiring and influential women from around the world in 2018 and in 2019 she was awarded MD (Hon) OBE from the University of Buckingham for her Charitable work particularly in the field of medicine. 

Clive Dove-Dixon, Chief Executive of CAN, said “Helen’s legacy will live on not just through her founding of CAN and Education Saves Lives, but also through the many other charitable endeavours she was responsible for over her long career. We are incredibly grateful not only to Helen, but also for her. She will be very sadly missed by all who knew her but we take some comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on for years to come.”

A private funeral will be held on September 23rd, with a memorial and thanksgiving service at a later date. Helen requested donations in her memory to Education Saves Lives, which was the passion of her later years; there is a link on their website