A charity campaigner who has raised thousands for orphanages and schools will be Lancashire's incoming High Sheriff for the coming year.

Helen Bingley, holds a string of titles and awards and was honoured with an OBE for voluntary services in the UK and abroad in 2018.

She has held a number of senior positions across NHS trusts but will be most familiar for her work with the Abaseen Foundation.

She said she was inspired to make a difference by NHS colleague Dr Mukhtiar Zaman, who took her to Shamshatoo, an area just outside Peshawar in Northwest Pakistan, 25 years ago.

Helen was so saddened to see people living and working in harsh conditions in the region's brick kilns, with a life expectancy of 38 years, that she and Mukhtiar began searching for like-minded people in Lancashire with whom they could set up the Abaseen Foundation. 

The charity provides health care and education for people born into a life of extreme poverty with no option but to work in the kilns. 

The Abaseen Foundation received a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2017. 

A quarter of a century on from that first trip, Helen is now the charity's chief executive, leading a large group of supporters, volunteers, and trustees, mainly from Pakistani and Indian backgrounds in Lancashire, to support people in northwest Pakistan.  

A fundraising event in Blackburn last year raised a huge amount of money and she has just returned from one of her biannual trips to the region to support the charity, which also has sponsorship schemes for children to go to school, feeding, orphans, vocational training and period poverty campaigns.

She said: "This latest trip was to establish two new projects funded by the people of Lancashire -  firstly a new school for 1,500 children on the brick kilns where people live in dire conditions. Education gives these child workers opportunities for a better life.

"Secondly, a new community hospital, in this remote area where the communities have no access to health care, which will have a huge impact on the health and well-being of people who live and work on the brick kilns with no means of accessing healthcare and for whom we will aim to increase their life expectancy above 38 years.

“These people live on less than a dollar a day to feed their families and we provide a nutrition programme to improve the cognitive functioning of the children in school to help them to learn and develop and improve the quality and length of their lives.

"There is no main water supply in these areas, water has to be found deep in the ground and a pump is then fitted to bring the water to the surface.

"The efforts of Lancashire people to raise funds for the new school and hospital will transform lives and support people to gain decent jobs and leave the brick kilns behind.”

Helen regularly takes a group of around 30 people a year, mainly from Lancashire, to the northern areas of Pakistan to raise funds, last year raising more than £100,000 through a trek to Rakaposhi on the way to K2, and with a similar trek to Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in northern Africa's Atlas mountains, planned for June this year. 

Helen added: "In 2020 more than 4,000 charities in Lancashire were registered with the Charity Commission and there are many more voluntary groups, social enterprises and faith groups that are not registered. 

"Our society is dependent on these groups for so many things, and they provide much needed support in many forms to so many people, often without recognition, constantly seeking financial support to provide services. 

"A priority in my year will be to visit as many voluntary groups as possible, to raise their profile and shine a light on what they do.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Helen Bingley with charity trustees working on hydroelectric supplies serving 30,000 people after floods in Swat in 2022 in Pakistan.

Helen takes over from David Smith, who has served as High Sheriff for Lancashire over the past 12 months.

They represent the Sovereign in their counties in upholding all matters relating to the judiciary and maintaining law and order.

The main role is to protect, and assist in upholding, the dignity and well-being of judges, as well as undertaking other public duties, including the support and encouragement of the voluntary sector and the emergency services.

The office of High Sheriff is carried out on a voluntary basis and the holder does not receive any salary or expenses.

Lancashire Telegraph: Helen Bingley with girls in the brick kiln school

It all began when she was growing up in Lancaster, which she recalls as a life of few privileges, but a great deal of family and community spirit.

There was 'no playground in the area,' she recalls, but plenty of 'made up games on the street' and a 'strong community'.

Life was 'tough,' she reminisces, and never more so than when the River Lune occasionally flooded the family home – but 'didn't seem tough - because that's all we knew'.

Highlights were playing out in the street and eating cockles wrapped in old newspaper that she'd picked with her siblings in Morecambe Bay. 

Her mother Norma, now 90, remains in charge of the large, close-knit family, always ready to step in to support each other.

She said: "I went to an ordinary, comprehensive school. 

"I left Skerton School without any A levels and studied much later, part time whilst working as a mature student to achieve several post graduate degrees and a masters in administration (MBA) in order to develop my professional and personal life."  

The message she wants to get across in her year as High Sheriff of Lancashire is that 'this is a county full of opportunity.'

 She said: "My motto is Carpe Diem – seize the day - and if you can seize the day, in Lancashire you too can aspire to become High Sheriff one day. 

"I went from being an ordinary little girl in Lancaster, with ordinary parents, to being a senior manager in the NHS and charity sector and now becoming High Sheriff of Lancashire. 

"My beginnings were nothing special, yet I have achieved so much living in the County of Lancashire.

"I truly believe that I am not unique, that Lancashire County is a place of opportunity for everyone, and I hope to inspire people across the county to aim high as in Lancashire, my journey is evidence that anything is possible."