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2012 Alumnus of the Year announced

Dr Alice WelbournThe Clare Alumni Council has elected Dr Alice Welbourn (1979) as Alumnus of the Year for 2012.

Alice has spent her career working to raise the profile of HIV positive women. She is the Founder of Stepping Stones, co-founder and chair of trustees for the Sophia Forum and the Director of the Salamander Trust.

Alice came to Clare as an Anthropology PhD student. She then lived and worked in Somalia for five years until in, 1989 the deteriorating security situation in Mogadishu forced her to move to Kenya. A year later, she returned to England with her two children. In 1992, with no symptoms but as a result of a routine antenatal test, she discovered she was HIV positive. At the time, when no treatment was yet available, the diagnosis felt like a death sentence, made all the worse by not being able to share it with others due to the stigma attached to it. However, Alice decided to create something positive out of adversity and has continued to do so ever since.

Between1993-5 Alice developed the Stepping Stones training package. The original idea was to help the community find solutions to the problems posed by HIV by addressing gender issues and improving communication skills. Since then Stepping Stones has taken off. It has been used by at least 900 organisations in more than 100 countries and translated into at least 20 languages and is used within the military, in prisons and with street children. WHO, UNAIDS and USAID have all recognised Stepping Stones as a key community tool for addressing problems posed by gender violence, which is both a cause and a consequence of HIV.

Alice's health did not deteriorate as rapidly as was initially feared. She began to take treatment for HIV in 2000 and, on this treatment, has remained in good health ever since. It was whilst acting as the Chair of Trustees of ICW (the International Community of Women living with HIV) that Alice resolved to become open about her status. She thought it was important to do so, because as a healthy, white, middle-class, well educated woman she confounded all the stereotypes.

Alice continues to work tirelessly, managing her time between the Sophia Forum, Salamander Trust and the Stepping Stones Community of Practice. These are not big organisations. Alice has one full-time paid Research Officer and some part-time help. She works from home in Devon and she is not paid for any of the work.

The Alumnus of the Year Award is designed to provide a role model to current Clare students, to demonstrate that it is possible to contribute to society without necessarily achieving financial or professional ‘success’ in traditional terms.