AN ABINGDON man who with the help of his local church raised nearly £7,000 for a community in Zimbabwe returned to see the difference his support has made.

Errol Midwinter sponsors two girls, Respect, 14, and Loice, 17, through the children’s charity Plan International UK and first visited them three years ago.

In August, he returned to the village near Chiredzi, south east Zimbabwe, with his daughter Rachel, 49, to see both girls again.

The 80-year-old said: “I sponsor through Plan International UK because I think it’s a good way of helping both the child and their community. I write regularly to my sponsored children, who write back to me, and visiting them the first time in 2014 was such a good experience I wanted to return again.”

During Mr Midwinter's previous trip to Zimbabwe, he visited Respect’s school and learned that the children had to walk three kilometres to the nearest unprotected water point and there were no toilet facilities available to the school children.

He said: “Many of these children were sitting out in the hot sun all day without easy access to water or toilets. Temperature-wise, it can go over 40 degrees. I decided to explore fundraising so that a borehole pump could be installed and toilets could be built at the school.”

When he returned home and asked his local catholic church, Our Lady and St Edmund, to raise money for the school during Lent. Through organising a variety of fundraising events, £6750 was raised for Respect’s school.

Mr Midwinter, who runs an accountancy business, said: “Returning to Zimbabwe has given me the opportunity to see how the money raised has benefitted the community.

“The borehole pump is not only providing clean water to the school children, but it’s made clean water easily accessible to 200 families in the area.

"Toilet blocks for girls and boys have been built with a handwashing facility; and there is an enormous garden where a variety of vegetables are being grown which serves the children and the community.”

He was also able to see the difference the toilet blocks had made to the school children and have a go at using the hand-wash facility.

After visiting the project, Errol and his daughter visited Respect at her home. The whole community had turned out to welcome them both, and there was a communal meal as well as entertainment in the form of poems and traditional dance.

Mr Midwinter said: “Respect’s home is very basic. She lives in a mud hut which has no furniture in it and has to sleep on the ground. It’s pitiful really. If Plan International wasn’t in the community providing support then these children really would have nothing.

“I’m already planning my next visit to Zimbabwe in 2019, and I have been writing to Respect and Loice again, sending them photos, now that I’m back in the UK.”