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Diss woman soldiers on in Kenya

PUBLISHED: 06:23 07 February 2008 | UPDATED: 10:23 12 July 2010

A FORMER Diss woman who runs a children's home in Kenya has told how teargas canisters landed in one of their compounds during a confrontation between protesters and police.

A FORMER Diss woman who runs a children's home in Kenya has told how teargas canisters landed in one of their compounds during a confrontation between protesters and police.

Pat Botwright, 69, sold her house in Diss more than 10 years ago to found the Christian-based Covenant Home for street children and orphans in Kisumu - one of the hotspots for the violent conflict between rival tribes that is escalating following the disputed presidential election in December.

Earlier this month Mrs Botwright, who is responsible for more than 300 children and staff, had to reduce meals to one a day because of food shortages. And this week, Kisumu was again cut off by road blocks while police tried to quell the unrest and prevent people from looting shops.

“It has been very bad for the last two days, and where the home is was blockaded off so nobody could come in from outside. The police came up and they threw a gas canister that went into the girls' compound. Basically I am not blaming the police - when you are facing people with pangas (a kind of machete).

“The thing of it is what did happen recently was terrible - sixty people were dragged off and killed. It was pretty grim and there has been a lot of bad things going on and the police have really got their work out,” she explained.

Mrs Botwright said although the situation is volatile they have good days and bad days.

“We are holding our own. I am a very tough lady so people are not against me - in fact our vehicle has twice been waved through the mobs. They know I care about them and we are one of them. I employ people from slum areas, I have orphans and I do my best where they are concerned and I have no reason to fear them.”

Covenant Home cares for 230 children and provides work for 65 adults including teachers who have been unable to hold lessons in Kisumu since the violence flared in December.

“It is the longest school holiday the children have had as they broke up on the 22nd of November. They (the protestors) won't allow the schools in Kisumu to open and twice they have chased the children out. Elsewhere in Kenya they have been allowed to go to school. My workers look to me for wages so if they cannot get into schools and they turn back home they still get paid.”

The home is also counting the cost of tables, chairs and bunk beds that were destroyed when a workshop was burned down.

However, despite the difficulties, Mrs Botwright was able to make a scheduled fund-raising visit to Tenerife this month as planned. “We were blessed in Tenerife and I have been out today and stocked up with food, she continued, adding. “The main way people can help us is praying for God's will to be done in Kenya.”

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