Thank you for all you have done! Surprise leaving party for much-loved Lesley

Lesley Smythe with friends at St Wilfrid's.
Lesley Smythe with friends at St Wilfrid's.

Not many people can claim to have made such an impact in our district as Lesley Smythe - you only have to look at how many people turned up at her surprise leaving party to see the sort of high regard that she is held in.

Since arriving in Harrogate 10 years ago, Lesley has set up numerous breastfeeding support groups, providing an invaluable support network for mums across our district.

More than 100 people attended a party at St Wilfrid’s Church on Saturday to say a big thank you and farewell, ahead of Lesley emigrating to New Zealand to live near family. And she already has plans to set up a support group over there.

Lesley said: “I was completely blown away and staggered by the surprise party, I really couldn’t believe it. It was just so lovely of them to do it. I think they are all amazingly courageous people, and I have walked the road with each of them. I know what they have been through. It’s been great to see a mum who felt really anxious and emotional at first, becoming more and more confident in breastfeeding their baby.”

Readers have been paying tribute to Lesley as she prepares to set off on her next adventure. Helen Fogerty said: “I really feel we have been so very fortunate in the district to have had Lesley’s wonderful, caring support to help us on our breastfeeding journeys. Her devotion to the wellbeing of the mums and babies who come to her at their most vulnerable is clear.

“She has a bottomless knowledge but delivers it with such non-judgemental compassion. The practical nursing tips are essential in supporting women at every stage of their breastfeeding journey, without them I have no doubt that many many women would have ended their breastfeeding journey before they wanted to. More than that, Lesley provided a safe place for women, she nurtured and supported them and championed mothering and parenting.”

Kristiina Phelps said: “Whilst I was talking to Lesley, I said she was like part of our family, and she said that is what that room felt like to her, that she was with her family. I think that is a wonderful legacy to leave, not just breastfeeding support, but a family of mothers supporting each other not just with breastfeeding, but everything else too.”

Anna Gladstone-Buchanan, who organised the party with Charlotte Gale, said: “Lesley’s impact on this community has been phenomenal. Her immense kindness has reverberated through us all and it ripples out and will continue on as we carry on her legacy supporting families, and passing on the kindness we’ve had from her.”

Charlotte said: “She has supported hundreds and hundreds of families and we wish her every happiness for her new chapter in New Zealand where, she will no doubt, do all this all over again.”

La Leche League breastfeeding support continues with drop-in clinics every Tuesday, 10am to 11.30am, at Knaresborough United Reform Church.