Torquay's Living Coasts teams up with volunteers to help in Africa
TORQUAY'S Living Coasts has teamed up with an Exeter-based voluntary group to help special needs children in Ethiopia.
The coastal zoo joined forces with Exeter Ethiopia Link to send much-needed toys to East Africa.
Exeter Ethiopia Link is a voluntary organization which aims to encourage and support sustainable projects. The Tradewinds shop at Living Coasts donated around 30 toys, including fish, crabs and polar bears.
Dr Kirsten Pullen, Zoo Research Officer with the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, which runs Living Coasts, visited Ethiopia recently with her mother, Penny Pullen, who leads the education sub-group of Exeter Ethiopia Link.
The group has links with Nekemte, a large town in western Ethiopia about 250 miles west of the capital, Addis Ababa. The Learning Disability Unit is attached to a local school for the deaf.
Exeter Ethiopia Link has been involved with the Unit since 2009. Kirsten: “There was no provision for children with learning disabilities back then. They were at home, neglected, shunned by society, with no hope.”
The school for the deaf provided a room for the children. Exeter Ethiopia Link donated furniture. Now there are 18 children in the Unit. They have been given a few resources, but still have very few toys other than those donated by Living Coasts.
Kirsten added: “The toys were made from very tactile materials, which made them particularly good for experimenting with texture. The children had a wonderful time with the animals, stimulating interaction and language.
“It was great to see confidence growing as they touched, felt and played with the toys. The teacher then used the animals to tell a story. The donations have given these children an opportunity that they would never have had. Stimulating language and confidence will enhance their development, helping them to learn the life skills which will enable them to survive in the adult world.”