Essex couple making their last trip to Madagascar to help at shelter

A DUNMOW couple are making what could potentially be their last trip to Africa to help at a shelter for orphaned children.

Linda and Maurice Pannell have been travelling to Madagascar since 2008 to help renovate an orphanage just outside the capital city of Antananarivo.

“When we retired we wanted to give something back and after trawling the internet I was lucky enough to come across the orphanage- Akany Avoko,” explained Mrs Pannell.

“It appealed to us because it was very genuine, all the money that the orphanage is given is directly spent on improving the children’s lives in some way or another.”

Akany Avoko was originally set up for young girls, who would otherwise be in prison awaiting trial to prove their innocence against allegations of petty crime.

Forty years on Akany Avoko offers shelter, care and the opportunity to develop new skills and knowledge to all of those in need. The aim of the orphanage is self-sufficiency using alternative technologies and sustainable ways to beat the poverty that is threatening to destroy their unique environment and culture.

“This will be our last working trip,” said Mr Pannell, who turned 64 last week.

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“We will more than likely fly there again to see the children and the staff at the orphanage but we won’t be building anything after this trip.”

Having refurbished an old storage shed into a play room and transformed the six dormitories from, what Mr Pannell called an “indescribably terrible state”, into something the girls can be proud of, the couple believe age is getting the better of them.

Although they are expecting another hefty refurbishment job they do not know what it will be, but they are confident their experience will serve them well.

“First time we went we didn’t know how to source the materials and tools we needed for the job as the orphanage has nothing,” said Mr Parnell. “It was a bit of a culture shock initially when we didn’t know how to go about getting a broom or paint. This will be our third trip, and having sourced timber, paint, bed linen, pillows and other things in the past, we will know where to go to get the things needed for the jobs.”

Mr and Mrs Pannell will begin their three month stay in Madagascar at the end of August. If you would like to help them raise money for Akany Avoko visit