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Locals set to join Norfolk pub landlady on trip back home to west Africa

PUBLISHED: 09:00 09 April 2017 | UPDATED: 08:43 10 April 2017

Eunice when she took over the Crown pub in Smallburgh. 

Picture: James Bass

Eunice when she took over the Crown pub in Smallburgh. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

In these times of rising nationalism, one small Norfolk community has a heartening tale to tell.

Norfolk to the Ivory Coast map: Graphics team Norfolk to the Ivory Coast map: Graphics team

A group of 16 villagers from Smallburgh and the surrounding area is spreading its rural wings and embarking on the adventure of a lifetime.

When Eunice Kokrasset, 34, became landlady of The Crown, a 15th Century coaching inn in the village, the locals befriended her.

Originally from the Ivory Coast in west Africa, she quickly became a much-loved member of the village’s close-knit community.

And she now wants to return the hospitality by taking a group of intrepid locals on an epic trip to her homeland.

The Crown at Smallburgh. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY The Crown at Smallburgh. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

In return, the group will leave a legacy in the form of a double-decker bus filled with resources to enable the children of the Ivory Coast to expand their knowledge and understanding of England.

The resources such as educational books, scientific equipment, sports kits and clothing are being donated by a range of sponsors and local people.

So in November, the group, comprising nine men and seven women, and aged from 22 to 74, will embark on an eye-opening cultural exchange trip, travelling from Heathrow via Brussels airports to Abidjan, the capital of the Ivory Coast.

For two weeks, Smallburgh’s finest will swap the rural charms of the Norfolk Broads for the far-flung wonders of the Côte d’Ivoire.

Landlady at The Crown at Smallburgh, Eunice Kokrasset, centre, getting ready for a trip for 16 regulars at the pub to visit her home in the Ivory Coast, West Africa. With her are the other organisers, Pam Dean, left, and Eileen Cole. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Landlady at The Crown at Smallburgh, Eunice Kokrasset, centre, getting ready for a trip for 16 regulars at the pub to visit her home in the Ivory Coast, West Africa. With her are the other organisers, Pam Dean, left, and Eileen Cole. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Along the way, they’ll discover the traditions, history and cultural delights of one of Africa’s most beautiful countries.

And with Miss Kokrasset as their guide, they’ll explore parts of the country that tourists never get to see - allowing them to truly immerse themselves in the cultures and traditions of another community.

Miss Kokrasset, who will be travelling with her partner, Jonathan Smith, said: “The support I’ve had at the pub since I arrived and from the whole village has been amazing, and so lovely.

“I’m a minority here but I’ve never felt that way. I don’t even realise I’m black some of the time. And that relationship has been getting stronger and stronger.

“My dad came to visit me from home at Christmas and he could not believe how supportive everyone was. Here, he was known as Eunice’s dad.

“So I thought, everyone has been so nice to me here, why can’t they now come and visit my country. The world’s a bit crazy at the moment with everybody trying to kill everybody else, but we’ve shown that people, no matter where they’re from, can get on with each other.”

She has organised a provisional itinerary for the trip including visits to many places she wants to share with her Norfolk friends.

She added: “We are hoping to meet the British ambassador over there and the first lady of the Ivory coast.”

Two locals venturing overseas with her are Eileen Cole, from Dilham, who is travelling with husband Les, and Pam Dean, from Smallburgh, who will be accompanied by her husband Chris. Mrs Cole’s daughter Katie, who’s at university, is also making the trip.

Mrs Cole said: “Each summer Eunice has been holding an African event at the pub and cooking African food, and we have all become more and more interested in her country.

“We are going because we want to experience another country and we’re looking forward to it. There’s a lot we need to do before then, though, including getting visas and vaccinations.”

Miss Kokrasset was Mrs Wortley when she moved to Norwich in December 2010 after marrying George Wortley, who later died, leaving her alone in a strange country.

She planned to become a French teacher, as that language is spoken in the Ivory Coast, but she knew the landlords at the Crown were retiring.

She said: “When I walked in the Crown I felt at home and thought it was perfect. It was amazing.

“A friend told me it was for sale and I jumped at the opportunity. I know it is hard work but I’m devoted to it.”

She grew up in Abidjan, where she studied law at university. She worked in HR before moving to Norfolk.

She met her husband, who was general manager of the Norfolk Club in Norwich, while he was on holiday in Ghana in 2010. She was on holiday at the same time. The couple married in Accra, the capital of Ghana.

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