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Norfolk charity worker’s “heartbreaking” visit to help Liberian children orphaned by Ebola virus

PUBLISHED: 09:10 05 November 2014 | UPDATED: 09:10 05 November 2014

Chloe Brett with the team in Liberia working with children orphaned by Ebola

Chloe Brett with the team in Liberia working with children orphaned by Ebola

Archant

Norfolk charity worker Chloe Brett has spent years visiting Africa’s poorest rural communities, seeing first-hand the devastating effect poverty has on the continent’s children.

Ebola’s orphans

Experts said at least 3,700 children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have lost one or both parents to Ebola, according to Unicef.

Chief executive of Save the Children Justin Forsyth said: “One of the main tragedies of Ebola is that many children, who have already witnessed one or both parents dying in terrible circumstances, are now being abandoned because people are so terrified of contracting the disease.

“The traditional safety net of community support is under threat.”

Many of these childrenhave nowhere to go as extended families refuse to care for them, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) added.

But she was reduced to tears for the first time last week on a trip to support Liberian children left orphaned by the Ebola outbreak.

Mrs Brett, 28, is operations manager for Norwich-based Street Child’s work in Liberia and spent five days in the Ebola-stricken capital Monrovia.

“Seeing what has been left behind was heartbreaking,” said Mrs Brett, who grew up in Hingham. “One of the families my team visited there was a 16-year old girl called Promise.

“She had three younger sisters all living in this one-bedroom house, and their mother had died a few years ago.

“Their dad got ill and they didn’t know what to do. He died in their house. Promise went to all her neighbours to ask for help, but they were all terrified of getting Ebola and sent her away.

“They slept next to their dad’s body for three days until a health team came and took it away.”

Officials had to destroy the girls’ clothes and mattresses to try and prevent the spread of the disease, leaving Promise and her sisters with nothing.

Street Child works in the slum where the girls live, and a Street Child team organised counselling, delivered a relief package and are tracking down extended family members.

“It was overwhelming. I’ve been doing this job for the last five years and it’s the first time I’ve cried. I lost it,” she said.

Mrs Brett is now back in England, focussing on fundraising so the charity can employ more local staff to help children orphaned by Ebola,

She plans to visit again after she had health checks both in Africa and England, despite not having come into contact with anyone suffering from Ebola.

To support the charity, visit street-child.co.uk.

Street Child

Norwich-based Street Child was founded by Chloe Brett’s brother-in-law Tom Dannatt.

Its main aim is to improve education for poor children in West Africa, but has now grown to focus on helping children orphaned by the Ebola crisis.

It employs Liberians to offer counselling to the children and carry out the charity’s work on the ground and also has teams working in Sierra Leone.

The charity works with families to help them set up small, sustainable businesses to provide them with an income, and helps girls get out of commercial sex work by giving them training and a safe place to live.

On November 29, Street Child will hold an Ebola benefit ball at The Artillery Garden, Honourable Artillery Company in London.

Hosted by The Apprentice’s Nick Hewer, it aims to raise funds for the Ebola Orphan Appeal.

• For more information about the ball, or to buy tickets, email elen@street-child.co.uk

• Do you know someone from Norfolk helping with the Ebola outbreak? Email polly.grice@archant.co.uk

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