Mary Ward-iansYou don't have to be a saint to make a change. Here we want to introduce fascinating people who have understood Mary Ward's message and translated it into their own lives - and into the lives of others. Do send us more information on noteworthy people who are a blessing to the world.
ELLIE CONSTABLE-MAXWELL, former pupil of St. Mary's Ascot, England; her Charity "Firefly" continues to operate - thank you to Lynne for drawing my attention to her influential work after her school years.
Ellie Maxwell, who has died aged 32, of complications from cancer, was a quietly spoken social activist with a grace, laconic wit and purposefulness that guided her life and work. At 21, she founded Firefly International, a Scottish charity whose mission is to foster multi-ethnic youth projects in Bosnia and elsewhere. To fund Firefly in the beginning, she enlisted fellow Edinburgh University students to canvass the neighbourhood. Edinburgh pubgoers were the most generous early givers. Later, the Princess of Wales Charitable Trust joined the list, giving substantial support. As Firefly grew in impact in Bosnia, Ellie was awarded Young Achiever of the Year (1997) at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, by the Queen, and Catholic Woman of the Year 1998.
"For social change to occur," Ellie wrote, "people's networks of friends, acquaintances and colleagues must cross the boundaries of race, nationality or language, along which they are often based".
Firefly was founded in a shed in Brcko, in north-east Bosnia. Ellie had gone to nearby Mostar to visit her father, Peter Constable Maxwell, then a UN aid officer. After helping carry water over Mostar bridge, and dodging sniper bullets, Ellie saw a need for a place of refuge for children. So she painted the Brcko shed. That refuge has evolved into three centres, maintained by Firefly associates, where Serb and Croat, Christian and Muslim young people play and learn together.
(...) Ellie was educated at St Mary's school in Ascot, Berkshire, and Edinburgh. She was multilingual, extensively travelled and a voracious reader.
Her activism might be called a secular evolution from a centuries-old recusant Catholic family. Though Ellie did not talk much of religion or lineage, the example of her ancestors lived in her. Her father is the descendant of two old Catholic families - the Maxwells from the Borders and the Constables from the East Riding of Yorkshire. Both families had remained Catholic after the Reformation and the family tradition is of loyalty to the "old faith".
(...) In 2004, Ellie married Ben Courtney, an American graphic artist and web designer, who survives her. The couple's online wedding registry listed charities only, or gifts where part of the proceeds went to Firefly.
Ellie's life was cut short, but her work continues. Through her initiative, a series of events associated with Palestinian students are to be held in Edinburgh this summer, with funding from the European Union.
Taken from: The Guardian, 28 April 2009; www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2009/apr/28/obituary-ellie-maxwell (adapted)