My name is Heather Le Rest, I am half British half American married to a French man and we have 3 amazing children. I am passionate about helping a small group of handicapped orphans in Gonder, a town in Northern Ethiopia. These children are so special. To the outside world, they are disabled but I prefer to think they have extra-ordinary abilities and I am humbled and thankful every time I can be in their presence.
I have been visiting Ethiopia for over 8 years and over the years I have literally carried 2000 of kilos of excess luggage to help support these amazing children. I have collected clothes, toys, art supplies, medical supplies, food and toiletries. I have also financed and sourced various medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers and a special oxygen machine. I paid for a physiotherapist to visit daily to help rehabilitate the children. I also arranged for the building of customized chairs and tables so that every child can sit-up properly as before they had one tinny chair only. I have paid for and arranged for a day out for all of the children - for most children it was the first time they have been able to leave the orphanage or ever been in a motorized car. I also arranged and financed for a day out for all of the carers. I have funded the solar power for a remote village in the south of Ethiopia through the assistance of the Missionaries of Charity.
Having lived in Dubai for 19 years, I was geographically close to Ethiopia and was able to make a few trips a year but now I am in Brittany in France so it is a little more complicated but that will not stop me. The next trip is planned for June 2 for 8 days.
My mission for this trip is to:
1. Re-paint the common area for the children with fun colourful images.
2. Decorate the ceiling with fun bunting that will be hand made to animate the ceiling which is often the only view for some children who are laying down most of the time.
3. Take clothes for the 22 children ranging from 3 months to 15 years old. These are second hand and collected through the school my kids go to.
4. Source 2 new wheel chairs and one special walker.
5. Take additional supplies so that I can help in a local school about 40km away from Gondar towards the Semien Mountains.
6. Take some supplies to a very small village where there is a lovely lady who suffers in silence but is always smiling.
You can see my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/challengersonamission/ to see what has been done over the years. I generally travel alone but sometimes I am very lucky and my friend Colin comes, once my friend Anthia came and also my husband.
I will create an event through Facebook and open the trip up to 5 people who would like to come. They can help with the painting, playing with the kids and also visit the school and the remote village. I will in exchange teach yoga every morning and evening in one of the worlds most beautiful places.
PLEASE KNOW THIS: I always pay for my own flights, internal transport, food and accommodation. No fundraising is ever to pay for the cost of doing the trip. This is really important for me to stay true to the cause. There is no middle person. I negotiate hard to get the best prices for any equipment I take. 100% of all funds donated or raised are spent on wheel chairs or any specific supplies needed. I raise my money through table-top sales of old stuff and teaching yoga and RPM and TRX. I do what I can.
Everything acheived until today has been thanks to the amazing people that have donated old items to sell or made donations. This is such a team effort to help make the lives of these children that bit happier.
I try to live my life with the same words as the orphanage -
DO SMALL THINGS WITH GREAT LOVE
I am convinced that if we each to our part AND do that part with full passion and love, we can make a difference.
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