Couple's campaign to help orphans

They may have been the most basic of concrete huts. But for the orphans of Vila Maninga in rural Mozambique they were home - until a bush fire swept through the village last year.

By SHAUN LOWTHORPE

They may have been the most basic of concrete huts. But for the orphans of Vila Maninga in rural Mozambique they were home - until a bush fire swept through the village last year.

Now Norfolk couple Robert and Sian Clifton are hoping to raise £30,000 to help rebuild the huts, known as rondavels, which house around 25 orphans and destitute children.

The pair were introduced to the work of Vila Maninga after their daughter Elizabeth worked at the settlement during a gap year in the early 1990s. Elizabeth continues to work and fund-raise for the charity and her parents visited in December.

Vila Maninga, which means a place of safety, is a small Christian charity based close to the Zimbabwe border. The community includes a 500-place primary school, a Christian training college and huts for the elderly.

Malaria is a continuing risk and many of the youngsters have lost parents to Aids.

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Fortunately nobody was injured during the blaze last September, but with all of the charity's funds consumed by the cost of supplying food and basic supplies there is no spare money to put a new roof over the children's heads.

Many lost all their possessions and after the fire villagers listed the goods they lost on the walls of their homes. Items included spoons, mugs, t-shirts and water bottles.

Mr Clifton, a retired clergyman, from Stan Petersen Close, in Norwich, said the children were staying at the training college which meant that the students there had been displaced.

"My immediate concern is to raise £30,000 to rebuild these huts for the children," he said. "They are just so poor it's unbelievable.

"While we were there two people wandered in from the bush who we couldn't take because we couldn't feed them. Out there £100 buys so much, that's the amazing thing.

"They would have their homes and their village back and it would enable the bible students to return. Without them it's out of balance."

One of the latest projects to help the community is a eucalyptus plantation. The 10-year scheme aims to help the settlement become self-sufficient with all the profits ploughed back into supporting the community.

"They are trying to help themselves," Mr Clifton added. "The great thing about it is that it's working with the local culture - it's not us from the West saying 'this is what you need'. It's working with them and not against them - that's the important thing."

Mr Clifton is hoping to raise funds for the orphans in Norfolk and is keen to raise awareness of Vila Maninga.

"If there are any organisations, clubs or schools who want somebody to talk to them I am happy to do it," he added.

For more information on Vila Maninga, or if you wish to help, contact Robert Clifton on 01603 631758.