John Holmes (1948 – 2008)
John Holmes was born and brought up in Guiseley on the outskirts of Leeds. Despite his working class background, his father had a love of books and a passion for education. It was from this that John inherited an omnivorous love of knowledge; astronomy, languages, local history, opera, music, cookery and world cultures are just some of the topics about which John seemed to know more that anyone else!
John’s first degree was in Chemistry but he then went on train as an English language teacher and with this he began to travel.
In the 1970s, John lectured in Kosovo, became fluent in Albanian and acquired a lifelong interest in the area. This led, in later years, to John becoming involved in the founding of the Balkans Peace Park.
In the 1980s, John was an ODA advisor on the Brazilian national ESP project. He learned Portuguese which was vital when he moved on to become a teacher training advisor in Angola. It was there that he met his partner of 28 years, Pedro Duarte.
In the 1990s, it was newly independent Eritrea’s turn. John became head of English at the University of Asmara, before the outbreak of war forced him to flee the country and take up a job at the University of Leeds.
John travelled regularly to Brazil to work on language projects there, he also worked for many years on a training project in Oman run by the Leeds University School of Education. Whilst teaching others, John was always learning the languages of the countries in which he worked. This love of language and communication led to his fluency in at least seven languages though he was defeated by the notoriously difficult Eritrean dialect of Tigrinya!
From 2000 to 2007 John worked closely with the Asmara Teacher training Institute on a project tracking the progress of newly qualified teachers in rural areas. With trustee and founder Jane Plastow, he developed a project promoting child-centred learning and the use of culture in Eritrean villages. They also began to support the village of Bogu, successfully raising money to install solar power, a TV and computers.
Sadly, John died suddenly in 2008 but the Trust is named in memory of him and it continues his work to improve educational opportunities for children in rural Eritrea.