August 1 2014 Latest news:

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When Russell Zubrinich arrived in Rwanda, he had no idea about the reception waiting for him.

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The accountant from Loraine Road, Holloway, travelled to the village of Kabacuzi for a week in August to meet eight-year-old Bugingo, a child he sponsors through anti-poverty charity Action Aid.

The 59-year-old said: “I had already spent five weeks teaching English in Tanzania, and I used the opportunity to visit Bugingo and find out more about his family.

“It was a three hour drive but when I got there I was amazed how high-profile my visit was.

“I was greeted by Bugingo’s parents, 300 villagers who had erected a special canopy and 100 children who were singing welcome songs.

“It was all quite emotional; I had to make up a speech on the spot.”

Humbled by the experience, Russell soon discovered how his donations to Action Aid had been used to benefit the whole community.

One of the improvements made to the village was the restoration work made to the local school, where two rooms had previously been falling down. “Bugingo led me around the village, it was great to see the impact my sponsorship has had.

“It demonstrates just how lucky we are.”

Russell also visited a banana crop owned by subsistence farmers and paid his respects at the Kigali memorial site, where the remains of 50,000 victims of the 1994 genocide are now interned.

Russell first began sponsoring children in developing countries in the early 90s, but he only decided to support Bugingo two years ago after spotting an Action Aid appeal in a newspaper.

“The cost of £15 a month is a relatively small amount in Britain, but in places like Rwanda it can change lives. Above all it’s an educational experience that I couldn’t recommend more highly.”

His hospitality also extends to three other children in Burundi, Brazil and Haiti who he would love to visit in the near future. Now back in Holloway, Russell is surprised by how different things seem.

“It’s been a real culture shock; everything seems so quiet in comparison to Tanzania and Rwanda. “It’s been a life-changing experience and I can’t wait to go back next year.”

Action Aid was founded in 1972 as a child sponsorship charity, and now operates in over 40 countries. To find out how you can make a donation, visit www.actionaid.org.uk for more information.

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