Norwich woman’s hike will help African families

A teaching assistant from Wymondham High School is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in a bid to raise thousands of pounds to help communities in Africa.

Judith Omasete, 37, is seeking sponsorship for her eight-day hike up Africa's highest mountain in September and is organising a family fun day in Norwich this Saturday to boost her appeal.

'I worked on development projects in Africa myself for many years and know what a huge difference they can make,' she said.

'My aim is to raise �4,000 for Concern Universal, which helps communities find practical, long-term solutions to poverty.'

Mother-of-two Judith, who now lives near The Avenues in Norwich, was born in Kitale, in Kenya. Her father is a coffee farmer who lost all his land during tribal clashes in 1992.

'I grew up in a very masculine society, where women were put down and girls were treated very differently to boys. I was lucky that one of my aunts received a good education and my family saw that she was then able to get a good job.

'I was, therefore, sent to a good school but most girls in my community did not get an education. Instead, they had to cook or wash clothes for the boys and men.'

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After school and college, where she studied agriculture, Judy's first job was with a British non-governmental organisation (NGO), which helped tribal clash victims. 'That was when I began to see real suffering,' she said.

Working with refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) she helped those living in camps to find their families and to move back into community life.

'We managed to educate more than 300 children and to give them access to medical facilities,' she explained.

She also went on to help young girls, who were being persuaded into marriage by their families, in exchange for dowries.

'Some of them were as young as 12. By educating them we were able to give them the power to decide and the opportunity to go on to get jobs so that marriage was not the only choice.'

Over the years, she worked for different charities, helping to rehabilitate child soldiers from Somalia and Sudan. She also supported families affected by HIV and AIDS.

'Many of the children we worked with were orphans, living on the streets of Nairobi. I was an outreach co-ordinator, trying to keep families together.

'We wanted children to stay with grandparents wherever possible, rather than being taken into orphanages when their parents became ill or died.'

She went on: 'For a time I also worked at the Turtle Bay Beach Club, where a lot of British people go on holiday. I spoke to them about charity work, and raised funds and sponsorship.

'While I was there, we managed to build five schools and to get 30 girls into education – girls who were then able to avoid an early marriage and to get good jobs.'

Through her work in Kenya, Judith met her Danish husband-to-be, and the couple eventually decided to return to the UK, where members of his family lived. They settled in Eye, in Suffolk, where they lived for four years, before moving to Norwich two years ago.

Since then, as well as working as a teaching assistant, Judith has run themed workshops and talks. Her experiences have allowed her to tailor sessions for children and adults, and to focus such subjects as fair trade, culture and human rights.

She has volunteered with Norfolk Education Action for Development (NEAD) and led workshops in schools on African crafts, music, dance and story-telling. The decision to climb Mount Kilimanjaro has also given her a new focus. As well as training hard, she has already raised �1,500.

'We do hope the family fun day this Saturday will make a big difference to the appeal,' she admitted. 'We are inviting as many people as possible to come and join us at the Belvedere Centre between 2pm and 11pm.

'During the day, there will be village fete stalls, crafts and other activities – then between 5.30pm and 7pm, we will have a disco for accompanied children. From 8pm to 11pm, there will be DJs and dancing for adults.'

Those interested in supporting Judith can also make donations directly to the appeal via Just Giving or can donate raffle prizes.

'I wanted to raise money for Concern Universal as I am aware of just how important the grass roots work they do is – and that 93pc of all money raised goes directly to the communities,' said Judith.

The family fun day is on Saturday, June 16, from 2pm to 11pm, at the Belvedere Centre, in Norwich. Admission is free. All donations will go to the appeal.

Judith's appeal can also be supported at www.justgiving.com/judith-omasete or by emailing judy.kilimanjaro@gmail.com

Are you organising a charity project? Email joe.wilkes@ archant.co.uk.

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