International: Nursery staff stretch horizons as orphanagevolunteers

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A trip to Thailand to redevelop an orphanage for children affected by HIV and AIDS has proved a life-changing experience for two nursery staff from the BUPA-owned nursery chain Teddies.

Karen Barker, senior nursery manager, and Helen Wright, deputy manager,volunteered to work in Pattaya, south Thailand, between November andDecember at Sarnelli House, home to 126 children who have HIV or AIDS orwho are orphaned by the disease. BUPA was looking for 60 volunteers togo to the orphanage, funded by the Pattaya Orphanage Trust, to mark thecompany's 60th anniversary.

During the ten-day trip, Ms Barker, of Teddies in Godalming, Surrey, andMs Wright, who is based in West Hampstead, London, redecorateddormitories and rooms in the nursery and built sports-courts andplaygrounds. Both raised over 1,000 to take part through fundays, autograph signings, sponsored swims and bingo nights.

Ms Barker said, 'I've never seen a group of children so happy with allthey have to deal with. Most won't live beyond the age of 20. Nothingappears to be wrong with the children, but it's very emotional when youhave to give them up to four syringes of medicine at one time. I've comeback a much more humble person.'

'They are the most wonderful children,' said Ms Wright. 'They've beenthrough so much, but it's only when they have to queue up at 6pm everyday for their medication that you remember many of them are ill.'

- Donations can be made at www.pattayaorphanage.org.uk.

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