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Fortnight working in slum school transforms East Anglian woman's life.


By Lisa Cleverdon

Retired dance teacher June Coombes' only experience of teaching African children was, until recently, in purpose-built classrooms in schools made of bricks and mortar.


She was accustomed to using things in her lessons that most of us take for granted - basic everyday items such as tables, chairs, pens, pencils, books and electricity.


But then Mrs Coombes embarked on a trip that gave her an insight into a world very different to the one she was used to - and ignited a passion to help give underprivileged children the opportunity to change their lives for the better.
Mrs Coombes, 59, from Bulmer, has spent two weeks working at a school in the slums of Bombolulu, a village near the Kenyan city of Mombassa.
" It was an amazing experience and I got so much out of it," said Mrs Coombes. She now plans to travel back to the village next year with her husband, Stephen.


"It was very emotional because it was like nothing I had ever seen before. The children are so poor, but they are so unbelievably focused and keen to learn. They were always so pleased to see me and always had a smile on their faces.
"But the school building has nothing, not even running water or electricity, and the children walk around in rags because their families are too poor to afford proper clothes."


Mrs Coombes, who used to teach at a school in Witham before retiring four years ago, made the decision to travel to Kenya because of her niece, Jacqueline Furlepa, who first visited the school last year.


Since her initial visit, Mrs Furlepa has made numerous trips to the village nad has even set up a charity - the Bombolulu School of Promise - to raise money to pay for a new school building and desperately needed equipment to give the children the basic level of education they deserved.


"Jacqueline got totally taken with the school and with the children who have absolutely nothing, and I decided I wanted to go and see it all for myself," said Mrs Coombes.


"While I was there I spent a lot of time teaching English, and Jacqueline and I also organised a concert and took the pupils to a local wildlife park. The children are so hungry for experiences and these were things they had never had the opportunity to do before.


"The trip was extremely rewarding and the experience really has changed my life. I am currently trying to raise as much money as possible for Jacqueline's charity and now I just can't wait to go back to the school and see the children again."

Retired teacher takes hope to young Africans