From Giffnock to Tanzania, with love

GIFFNOCK woman Phyllis Hutchison made a stop at a Tanzanian orphanage on the last day of a safari holiday — and it was an experience which changed her life.

Phyllis and partner David Devlin had taken small gifts to give to children, and were taken by their driver to the Children Concern Foundation, on the road to the Serengeti.

She told The Extra: “I really wasn’t prepared for what I saw. When I stepped out of the truck, this tiny little boy, Immanuel, grabbed me by the knees and wouldn’t let go. I fell in love with him, then all the children.”

Phyllis and David met 36 orphans (aged four to 16) sharing six bunk beds in a facility with no gas or electricity, no running water and very little food.

She said: “The orphanage gets no government funding — they depend on safari trips stopping. Whatever money I had on me that day, I just gave them it. I exchanged email addresses with Peter, who helps run the orphanage, and decided to do something more.”

After discovering an American charity set up by two women who had stumbled on the orphanage in 2011, Phyllis gathered 20 friends at Giffnock South Parish Church and arranged bake sales and packed bags in supermarkets as the affiliated Scottish Friends of Children Concern Foundation.

They raised £5,000 before Christmas, helping to part-fund a truck for the orphanage, as well as a hut for drying clothes.

Phyllis commented: “The children get pneumonia often and the nearest hospital is two and a half hours away — they were getting there on the back of a motorbike taxi, and only if there was enough money.

“They got the truck before Christmas and apparently the children were so excited, asking whose truck it was — and Peter was able to say ‘it’s yours’.”

Next up are bake sales at the Royal Bank of Scotland Newton Mearns and Giffnock branches, on February 28, and comedy nights at the Halt Bar (March 1) and the Griffin (April 26). Local choir Sounds International will be performing at Eastwood Park on May 6 in aid of the charity, and the team hope to find a sponsor for the event.

The group is on the lookout for volunteers — in particular, someone to design posters, and anyone with knowledge on sending packages to Africa — and all are welcome to attend the next meeting at Clarkston Bowling Club on March 6, at 7pm.

Phyllis and David will return to Tanzania in June. She added: “I’ve never done anything like this before and I’m blundering along — but I’m driven by a passion for the plight of these children.

“People say ‘it’s amazing what you’re doing’ but I think what’s better is seeing how many people want to help — I wouldn’t have believed it before, and it’s really beautiful that people believe my story and want to be involved.”

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