Ilford volunteer prepares for Bolivian stay to help young orphans

A 31-year-old volunteer from Ilford is preparing to spend the next two-and-a-half months in the Andes mountains helping young orphans to read and write.

Lee Francis, of Coventry Road, Ilford, will head for Bolivia on Thursday to take part in a charity project in the landlocked South American country.

She will teach English and physical education to children at the Oeser orphanage and school in the centre of the country.

Her work will also see her care for youngsters who have to live in a local prison with their parents and educate people about HIV.

The project is run by charity Tearfund and the International Citizen Service.


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Lee said: “Charity work is one of my passions. I’ve been in charity work in some capacity for the last five years or so.

“I thought this would be great. I’ve wanted to work abroad, it was one of my goals for this year, and I love working with children.

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“I have a heart for reaching out to people in poverty.”

Lee, who has previously volunteered at the former Redbridge Night Shelter in York Road, Ilford, will stay with a host family in the city of Cochabamba.

She had some concerns about altitude sickness before departing because it lies 2,558m above sea level.

She will lead a team of volunteers and will also help with construction work, sanitation projects and painting and decorating.

Bolivia had an estimated 12,000 people living with HIV or AIDS in 2009 and Lee will visit schools and local youth groups to raise awareness.

She said: “As in most developing countries, they don’t have medication.

“There’s a lack of awareness about how the disease is transmitted and they don’t have the access to contraception we do.”

She is also excited about getting to help children in the orphanage.

She said: “I’m looking forward to showing them some love and helping them to have a good time, play games and have a bit of an escape from reality.”

She has to raise �800 for Tearfund, having already received donations of around �600.

To support her, visit www.justgiving.com/Sharna-Marie-Francis.

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