A WASHINGTON couple are to celebrate 21 years of changing lives.
Avril and Allan Richardson first went to Kenya in January 1993 for what was supposed to be a brief holiday in the sun.
But after being shocked by the poverty they encountered on their short drive from the airport to their hotel, they decided to act.
On their return home they set about raising cash to build a school and provide education to orphans and others.
Today, they are still going strong – and a new fund-raising appeal by Chess, the charity they established in 1995, is underway.
They hope its Christmas Unwrapped initiative will help raise at least the £5,000 needed to construct the school’s sixth classroom.
The retired social workers, of Biddick Lane, Fatfield, are now appealing for sponsorship donations.
Grandmother and mum-of-one Avril, 70, said: “The poverty we saw was unbelieveable. The areas we passed to our hotel were filthy.
“But we became besotted with the people and the place and decided we wanted to do something to help.
“These people have nothing, but they are so kind and always smiling. We are thrilled with the work we have done, but we have never looked for any personal glory.
“It would be wonderful if we could raise enough money for one new classroom, but two would be amazing.”
Donations to Chess – Children’s Health and Education Secured by Sponsorship – pays for infant, primary and secondary schooling in remote Bomani Village, nine miles north of Mombasa.
About 300, mainly three to 16-year-olds, are taught at any one time, with more than 1,000 having benefitted over the years.
As little as £1 will pay for a brick for the classroom’s construction, work on which they hope will start early next year.
But sponsorship also pays for secondary schooling for youngsters to attend non-Chess centres and for others to get through university.
In fact, Chess has sponsored four students who have successfully completed university courses at a cost of £700 a year each.
One, Vivian Kerage, 19, is about to graduate from law school and qualify as a barrister, while another is set to join the Kenyan air force.
Chess also provides meals and learning equipment, such as paper and pens, with the teaching staff of about 20 paid for through separate Chess sponsorship.
It is also starting an agricultural programme on part of the school’s two-acre site. About an acre will be set aside and cultivated with maize and other crops after Chess funded the cost of plough and fertiliser.
Anyone who would like to support Chess with sponsorship can call 415 7566 or email email@example.com.