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A brighter future is being built on a firm foundation for children struck by poverty in Africa.

Orphaned and abandoned children in Uganda have seen their new home for the first time which has been made possible by fundraisers in the North-East.

The Kwagala Trust receives help from County Durham philanthropists who have taken responsibility for raising small children aged three to seven in Uganda. Some of the children have been abandoned by their parents, others are orphans.

Keith Johnson, chairman of leading estate agent JW Wood and trustee of the Kwagala Trust, has just returned from Africa where he has been checking on progress work for a new home.

He said: “Having set this in motion last year and organised the plans for the house, to actually be there and see it rise up out of the ground was just incredible.

“It was fulfilling to see the project nearing completion because of the amazing generosity of many organisations including staff of my own company. It makes it all worthwhile when you see what is being achieved.

“I was delighted that the project manager had managed to get the house so far on and I was convinced the children would be able to move out of their current home, with its unsafe, noisy and dirty surroundings, fairly soon.”

JW Wood bought the land while Elvet Methodist Church contributed £25,000 to the life-changing project. The estate agents is a member of the Home Sales Network, which also donated £15,000 and the scheme is backed by the Rotary Clubs of Durham, Frank and Sue Curry, of Poplar Tree Nursery at Shincliffe and the owners of the Pavilion Cantonese Restaurant at Iveston, near Consett, along with many individuals in the area.

The newly named Elvet House is situated 20 miles north of Kampala and is situated in a rural environment, on a three acre site, in a safe and peaceful setting.

“It was overwhelming when we took the children to see their new home for the first time,” said Keith.

“Just like children all over the world, they started debating which room they were going to have. To witness that scene of normality really hit me. It was fantastic to see how happy they were and the strong family bond they have developed.”

When the eight children came to the trust they were in very poor health suffering from typhoid, malaria and kwashiorkor, an acute form of malnutrition. Sadly one of the children died at just ten months old from a blood disorder which was contracted from being born on a pig sluice near Kamala.

Keith said: “We know there are hundreds of children suffering in Africa, we are only a small charity and we realise that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean.

“But for the children, Benjamin, Joshua, Grace, Joy, Faith, Esther, Destiny and Vanessa, their lives have already changed and we are solving the problem of poverty completely for them.

“There is also a positive spin-off for the local village as we are employing some of the locals to look after the gardens at the house and care for the animals.”

During Keith’s time in Uganda he spent days making sure necessary supplies were sourced to complete the house.

Keith said: “Materials are very expensive over there; bricks and timber are produced locally but all finishing products have to be delivered from miles away, which means floor tiles are around £25 per square metre.

“We still have quite a bit of work to do too. We need to build a compound around the house for the security of the children. We need to put in an access road and a rainwater storage tank and we need to render and paint the outside of the house.

“In total there is still around £20,000 needed to complete the house so they can move in, which we are hoping will be early September.”

The Kwagala Trust is run by Esther Zziwa, who herself was abandoned as a child. Esther is visiting the region for three weeks of fundraising and will be holding a Summer Evening on June 29 at 7.30pm at Shincliffe Garden Centre, where she will be singing throughout the evening.

Tickets are £12, which includes a light supper and can be bought from the JW Wood office in Old Elvet, Durham.

Anyone interested in helping the children should contact Keith at k.johnson@jww.co.uk or visit www.kwagala.org.uk

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