It is with great sadness that we learned of the loss of Karen Sparrow, Head of Global Programme Training at Peek, on 4 January 2022 after a long battle with Ovarian cancer. Peek CEO Dr Andrew Bastawrous looks back on Karen’s remarkable contribution to global eye health and celebrates her life and work at Peek.
Karen was a hugely generous and passionate person who had a profound effect on everyone she worked with at Peek. She always had her team's back and saw the potential in others that they did not always see for themselves. "You've got this!" was her rally cry to those she backed and she was the first to praise others’ achievements, yet always humble about her many well-deserved accolades.
When Karen joined the Peek team in 2017, I was frankly just really excited that the startup social enterprise which I’d only just got off the ground had managed to attract somebody of her calibre. She was one of our first official team members and it was clear that she had a lot to offer. But I could never have imagined that she would make such a difference to our organisation.
Anything Karen was involved in was better off for having her input, whether that was a work document, presentation, event plan or even a colleague's holiday rental. She always took the time to offer constructive feedback and practical tips for improvement.
Although Karen was brought on board to lead Peek's training activities, in her early years at Peek she brought her incredible energy to many different aspects of our work, from product launches to social media and showcasing Peek at numerous professional events and conferences.
She later worked with colleagues to establish our training and support team, building on her decades of experience to facilitate a new team based in Botswana, South Africa and the UK. Today that team is a thriving group of outstanding individuals without whom our work simply wouldn’t be possible. She was responsible for developing and implementing Peek's training model, a critical part of the organisation's work and one that will live on for many years to come.
Karen always found ways to show she cared: unexpected gifts in the post, homemade jam brought into the office, and spontaneous chats at the end of the day (oh go on, just one more coffee…) which turned into missed trains and a deep appreciation of Karen’s wide interests and fascinating career and life.
She had a Jedi-like talent for logistical management which calmly saw us through many sticky situations and near-crises. From late nights making up packs for launch events (with not a sticker or leaflet out of place) to cutting over a hundred two-metre strips of cord accurate to the nearest millimetre to be included in training packs. She even ensured one of our team members made it home early from a business trip for the birth of their child that they would have otherwise missed. Nothing ever seemed to be too much for her.
Karen - your courage in the face of adversity, your kindness in the midst of pressure and your brilliance in improving the lives of others will long live on. It was an honour for us to share the journey with you. May you rest in peace.
Read this 2019 interview with Karen to find out more about her remarkable career.