“The children have so little but are incredible. They have hearts of gold and I’m already smitten,” said Danielle Evans of Chesterfield who is taking part in a charity mission in Africa.
Danielle, a sports lecturer at Chesterfield College, is just one dedicated Derbyshire resident helping disadvantaged communities in the country.
Last month Wale Olarinde, a surgeon at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, returned from a medical mission in Togo which saw him and a team performing 250 operations, while Gemma, Rebecca and Thomas Lowe, of Chesterfield, are set to fly out to Malawi to take part in a month of charitable work.
The group are among many wanting to make a difference in the third world country, which still accounts for more than one-third of the world’s extreme poor.
Danielle, who has been teaching at the college for seven years, is volunteering at two children’s care projects in South Africa.
She said: “I wanted to volunteer overseas so that I could see and start to understand how people live in the townships, how bad poverty in some places really is and to try and make a little difference by putting my teaching skills and training to good use while also giving the children care and attention that they crave so much.”
Danielle said there are high rates of alcoholism in the township and high domestic violence rates but added: “It’s not all doom and gloom. There is a great sense of community. The people here do not want to live from handouts but want to get involved in many of the work projects so they can gain skills for a sustainable income.”
Wale Olarinde, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Calow hospital, has just returned from a volunteering mission in Togo.
He was part of a team which carried out free hernia operations and neck surgery, treating 250 patients in just one week.
He said: “My specialist is not terribly popular in developing countries and there is one surgeon to millions of patients. One of the biggest problems is that there is no health insurance and you have to pay for any operations if you need them.
“For me, coming back to my normal office made me realise how much we have as while things may not be ideal in the NHS things are pretty good. He added: “It is good for people to go out there and then come back and reflect that things are not that bad here.”
Brother and sister Rebecca and Thomas Lowe and their cousin Gemma will be teaching in primary schools during their four-week trip to Malawi.
Gemma said: “Our hope is to take out many materials such as clothing, writing and sport equipment. These will be distributed to some of the poorest schools and villages in need.”
She added: “All Malawians are very appreciative of your time, and effort to visit them. We intend to visit as many villages as possible during our times of travelling, villages which I have worked with in the past.”
Over the next few weeks the trio will be doing fundraising to support their trip in June.