‘It’s amazing we’ve managed to raise so much’

4/1/2012 (NEWS) WE CAN DO IT''Founder of Village Africa Caroline Johnston (48) who is about to commence the Village Africa Desk Appeal and is asking for donations and fundraising to provide 450 desks to primary schools in Tanzania, East Africa.''Picture: Sarah Standing (120015-393)
4/1/2012 (NEWS) WE CAN DO IT''Founder of Village Africa Caroline Johnston (48) who is about to commence the Village Africa Desk Appeal and is asking for donations and fundraising to provide 450 desks to primary schools in Tanzania, East Africa.''Picture: Sarah Standing (120015-393)
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It started out as a religious calling to reach out and help others in need overseas.

Caroline Johnston left her home in Waterlooville and set up her own charity in Tanzania so she could care for villagers.

Now, five years on, their lives will be given a huge boost because Caroline’s charity, Village Africa, has collected enough money to buy a new ambulance to transport sick people in the region to and from hospital.

Volunteers, businesses and community groups in and around Portsmouth have pulled together to raise the last of the £40,000 needed to purchase a brand new, fully kitted-out 4x4 Toyota Landcruiser.

Those that helped out included the Meeting Industry Meeting Needs charity, which donated £5,000 towards the cause.

The ambulance will replace the existing one, which was struggling to cope with the region’s mountainous terrain and the gruelling three-hour drive to the hospital in Tanga from Yamba and Milingano.

A large chunk of the cash was raised from the launch of the charity’s ambulance appeal 18 months ago. The launch saw Caroline, her sister Andrea Ward and driver Liz Collyer driving a total of 1,400 miles up and down the UK in a vintage ambulance.

The trip, which coincided with the start of the World Cup, saw the team visit Helen O’Grady Drama Academy branches across the country.

At each branch children took part in Africa-themed shows including singing and drumming.

Caroline, 48, said: ‘It’s amazing that we have managed to raise so much in such a short space of time.

‘So many people have come together and helped out, and it all comes down to the efforts of people living in and around Portsmouth. Buying this ambulance will, without a doubt, save more lives.

‘A lot of people living out there come to the charity for help if they know someone who is seriously ill. If they aren’t able to make it to hospital in time then they could potentially die en route.’

Caroline, a former member of Waterlooville Baptist Church, said: ‘It also means so much to me because setting up this charity was a religious calling. Now I just want to build on all the hard work that has been achieved.’

Caroline, who travelled back to Waterlooville to visit family at Christmas, added: ‘The charity works hard to improve education and awareness of diseases.

‘We regularly hold seminars and free checks for malaria.’