A Mossley couple who gave up their home and quit their jobs to become charity workers are helping thousands of homeless children in Africa to a better life.
Gayle Woods, 57 and her husband Paul 59, set up the Gap Kenya charity in 2011, but soon realised living and working in the UK wasn’t enough, and needed to be more hands on with a permanent home in Kenya.
And after deciding to leave their jobs and sell their family home in 2013, the charitable couple have been helping feed ‘street children’ on the streets of Kenyan town Mombasa ever since.
Thousands of children are left to fend for themselves, some as young as five, and others are forced to live on the local rubbish dump, searching through tonnes of rubbish for left over food.
Gayle, who worked at Tameside hospital as a midwife for 30 years, said: “Every time the rubbish truck comes, they are all over it. Some hotel rubbish came not so long ago and the kids were eating it. It’s what they do, they’re so used to eating other people’s rubbish.”
Children and their mothers are forced to live in make-shift houses on the town’s rubbish dump, and some children as young as five or six are sold glue to help dull their minds and make it easier to sift through the rotten food.
But Gayle and Paul’s feeding programme offers the street kids, and those living on the dump fresh bread and juice.
Gayle added: “We take bits of bread to them, and sometimes give them about five or six pieces each, and we give them some juice. It’s great to see them eating something fresh and enjoying it.”
But living in Mombasa comes with its risks, and Gayle and Paul are often forced to work with gang leaders who control the street children.
Gayle said: “The younger children look up to the older ones, and we have to work with the gang leaders. The kids have to make so much money a day for them, and it’s also the gang leaders who sell them the glue to sniff.
“The leaders say they’re looking after the children, but there is one girl who is 12 and she is made to work in the clubs as a prostitute.”
Despite Paul developing bowel cancer in February last year, they are still determined to help the street children and are now fundraising for a minibus to bring children to their day centre from the rubbish dump.