Young Mama Mary makes a difference

Poverty-stricken children in Africa have inspired a young Auckland woman to do all she can to give them a greater chance in life.

Mary Duncan, 20, has been working hard to help youngsters in Arusha, Tanzania, after spending time with them as a volunteer two years ago.

Miss Duncan, who grew up in Howick, decided to leave school in 2009 and take up a volunteer position in Africa shortly after her 18th birthday the following year.

During her time there she established a not-for-profit charity called Arusha Children’s Effort, or ACE, to help children get an education.

Those who sponsor a child through the charity will pay their child’s school fees for one of four schools in Arusha.

The money will also go towards buying them school equipment, books, a basic uniform and shoes.

Seventy-four children, many of them Aids orphans, are enrolled in the programme.

Miss Duncan, whom the children call “Mama Mary”, is working in Queensland to help support herself. She travels to Africa each year and spends about three months there working on her programme with volunteers.

She described her work as difficult, draining and at times depressing, but satisfying.

“Volunteering in such extreme poverty isn’t easy. It is incredibly hard in every way. It is depressing because you feel like no matter what you do, the problem is just too big.

“I have learned more from the kids in my programme than I ever could have at any university hall.” Read more


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