HANWASH UPDATES: Remembering Our Great Friend and Colleague Omar Keith Helferich

Omar Keith Helferich, PhD

M&E Subcommittee Chair 2020-2024

You can read the obituary published by his family and leave a personal tribute or memory online here:


What is the legacy of a good man?

Over the past few years, Omar and I have been the HANWASH Monitoring and Evaluation Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively. From our very first conversation, I was impressed by Omar’s intelligence, his fierce commitment to doing the right thing the right way, and his unwavering support for bringing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene to the people of Haiti. And for the rest of us, Omar brought us a laser-like focus on learning and on quality improvement on a daily basis. He challenged all of us to be better Rotarians and better partners. He did all this with a smile and deep generosity – truly a good man.

Barb Spangler
HANWASH, M&E Subcommittee Vice-Chair

Omar brought to M&E the rare gift of professional passion driven by tireless reflection and desire for action. He championed questions of “what” and “how” in our meetings. He and I bonded over seeking the “how” for a meaningful collection of “Lessons Learned”. Although a work in progress, along that road we also learned the lesson of friendship in creativity through inspiration and aspiration!

Our M&E team came together through Omar’s love of sharing stories. I’m guessing a common theme runs through many others’ own experiences with Omar’s marathon of thought. As part of his legacy, we will continue to share lessons with love through our Omar stories.

Hugs from a distance Omar.

Madeleine Butschler
HANWASH, M&E Subcommittee member

On March 28, we lost a friend and colleague, Dr. Omar Keith Helferich, who led our Monitoring & Evaluation team since July of 2020.

I am awed at the vastness of Omar’s pursuits during his long life. Military captain. Engineer. Teacher. Humanitarian worker. Rotarian. A husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, he was also a traveler, musician, sailor, and ballroom dancing partner to his wife Patricia, with whom he shared a great many adventures. Omar lived with gusto and he brought that quality to his service with HANWASH.

With volunteers in a dozen countries, most of us in HANWASH work remotely with each other. At every encounter, he had a story to tell, or an opinion to share, and boy oh boy, could he ever laugh heartily!

My first day on the job, Omar enthusiastically volunteered his expertise in building our practice in monitoring and evaluation. He said we could learn from our mistakes, improve our work, and make sure that it stands the test of time for the communities we serve. In other words, process, “lessons learned”, and sustainability! Sound familiar? 😊

M&E can be hard, tedious work; sometimes your only reward is finding out what you did wrong. He was a champion of this and I sure appreciated having him as a staunch, insistent, and tireless ally.

Under his tenure, we created our first performance management framework and recruited a strong team, cultivating practice leaders in continuous improvement, risk management, and data analytics, and hiring our first M&E staff member.

Omar and I had many debates (which he usually won) and he was one of the most vocal and passionate voices in our group. A friend to all, he always brought a critical eye and challenged us to do better.

Thank you, Omar, for your energy and devotion, for your legacy in shaping the way we work and for making the world a better place. You leave a huge hole in our hearts.

Ryan Rowe
HANWASH, Executive Director

Omar Keith Helferich