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Mike and Angela have 200 children...who live in Africa
MIKE and Angela King don’t have their own children – apart from their 200 kids in Africa that is.
The devoted couple are living testament to the fact families come in different packages, and they are what you make them.
The couple’s life was to change forever back in 2003 after they decided to venture to Ethiopia for a holiday.
Not being a traditional “relaxing on the beach” couple, Mike and Angela, from Bradwell, were looking forward to a different sort of break, while absorbing the country’s history and culture.
But they instantly fell in love with the people of the civil-war-torn country and a new chapter in their lives began.
On returning home, the couple, who have been married for 24 years, formed their own charity, Ethiopia Hope, and have returned once a year ever since.
Their three-to-four-week-long trips to the arid township of Bahir Dar see them help villagers to build homes, get youngsters urgent medical treatment and help out at a Catholic school for poverty-stricken Ethiopian children.
Without a doubt, their intervention and fundraising has helped save and change the lives of hundreds of African children.
Mike, who works for the Department for Work and Pensions and was based in Colchester for many years before recently moving to Southend, says: “Ethiopia doesn’t sound like a conventional place to go on holiday, but we’d been to Pakistan and places like that. We don’t like to laze around on the beach.
“At the time, we had a friend who was working out at a school in Ethiopia and she asked us to visit. What we saw changed our lives.
“These are people who have nothing, yet the children still skip to school with the biggest smiles on their faces you’ve ever seen.
“The littlest things make them happy and they have a touching appreciation for things the rest of us take for granted.”
During one of the couple’s first visits to Bahir Dar, which is 600km north of the capital city Addis Ababa, they took a bunch of cuddly toys to hand out to the children. But their generosity didn’t go down so well with all.
Mike, 49, recalls: “There was a big cuddly dog in particular in the pile which left the children absolutely petrified, simply because they’d never seen a cuddly toy before.
“Some were so frightened they started throwing stones at it.
“Out of all the toys and stuff we’ve taken out there, the one thing they all love is cardboard aeroplane gliders. They cannot get enough of them and spend fun-filled hours chucking them around in the street.
“Even the grown-ups come out and get involved. They seem to be mesmerized by them. These are toys that cost a couple of pence for us, but mean the world to them.”
Angela, 52, and Mike have done lots to support the town’s Catholic school, run by three Ethiopian sisters.
Angela, who has a full-time job in the media and marketing sector, says: “The school has 400 pupils from three to 16 years.
“The majority of the students pay to attend, but the school also sponsors children who can’t afford the fees. The sisters are the backbone of the school and are wonderful people.”
Through their charity Mike and Angela have raised £50,000 – enough to build 150 homes in Bahir Dar.
That’s 150 families who now have a house with a roof to keep them dry during the rainy season.
Returning every year is always a tough but rewarding time for Mike and Angela. There’s no fancy hotel, they stay in the village, or at the school, and pay for their trips out of their own pockets.
Every penny raised for Ethiopia Hope goes to the people who need it.
Mike explains: “Our arrival is always full of mixed emotions. “They run up to us and hug us. If they don’t know us yet, they call us ‘ferenje’ which means foreigners. They truly are the friendliest people you could imagine. They don’t hold back when it comes to showing emotion.”
The couple vow to carry on with their annual trips to Ethiopia
. Mike says: “Year after year when we return, we can see how with a little help these people are able to turn their lives around and are able to become self-sufficient, which has always been our aim. They don’t want charity, they want a helping hand.
“When people ask us now if we have children we say no, except the 200 we have in Ethiopia. They are our family.”
To support the charity log on to www.ethiopiahope.com
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