Selflessness, commitment and leadership best describe former CEO and Honorary Lifetime President of LITTLE EDEN Society, Lucy Mary Slaviero née Hyams. These qualities were recognised recently when she was presented with the award of Knighthood of the Order of the Star of Italy – ‘Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia’ – by the Italian Ambassador to South Africa, His Excellency, Paolo Cuculi.
Although this state award from the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, was officially announced in May 2019, Covid-19 restrictions prevented the actual presentation ceremony until now. Since it’s inception in 1793, only 10 900 people have been recipients of this award. Lucy was honoured in recognition of her many years of dedicated service to LITTLE EDEN and the intellectually disabled children and adults we care for.
At the function held at the Italian Consulate in Houghton on Thursday, 10 March 2022, Lucy remarked, “The cliché ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ is often glibly thrown about – but I can truly say that is why I am here today. Without the magnanimous heroic and serving life lived by Domitilla and Danny Hyams, LITTLE EDEN would not exist and I would not be here.”
A professional psychiatric nurse, Lucy began working at LITTLE EDEN in 1980 shortly after her marriage, following in the footsteps of her parents, Domitilla Rota Hyams (awarded the Knighthood of the Merit of the Italian Republic in 1999) and Daniel Hyams, who founded the Society fifty-five years ago. In 1995 she was appointed CEO by the then Board of Governors, a position she held for 23 years. She retired from in 2020 having contributed enormously to the development of the organisation.
Under her leadership, LITTLE EDEN grew exponentially with:
- the establishment and development of the Elvira Rota Village in Bapsfontein;
- the establishment of Chapels at both centres;
- the establishment of the Associazione Domitilla Rota Hyams ONLUS, NPO in Italy for the support of LITTLE EDEN;
- the formation of the LITTLE EDEN Foundation;
- collaborative agreements with overseas organisations such as the Sisters of the Imitation of Christ and FIDESCO, for volunteers to serve at LITTLE EDEN;
- the introduction of staff welfare programmes, provident fund and business management processes;
- a growing network of volunteers and supporters, making it possible to increase and optimise the possibilities of care and assistance offered.
As a direct result of her compassionate and strong leadership, the organisation made the difficult transition from a family managed PBO to a community based self-regulating PBO, managed and run along professional best practice and good corporate governance principles, with independent Boards for both LITTLE EDEN Society and LITTLE EDEN Foundation.
Today, under the guidance of CEO Xelda Rohrbeck, LITTLE EDEN continues to shine as a beacon of light in the intellectual disability sector and compares with the best in the field. We continue to serve the most marginalised in line with the ethos and values of our founders, who are now being considered by the local Catholic Church as candidates for beatification and canonisation. On her retirement and in recognition of her lifetime dedication to the Society, Lucy was awarded the Danny and Domitilla Hyams Award for selfless service and leadership and was honoured by the LITTLE EDEN Board of Governors by being made the Honorary Lifetime President of the Society.