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Duo behind a very special Gift

When good friends Janet Wilson and Catherine Gleave first witnessed abject poverty in Kenya they felt compelled to help.

On their return from a visit to the country in 2001 they set up Gift International. Each year they raise around £10,000 for education and training projects.

Janet and Catherine, both in their 50s and from Killinchy and Lisburn respectively, are backed by a small team of volunteers and the generosity of the public.

Janet said: "Going to the slums in 2001 and meeting people there had a real impact on us.

"Around 1.5m people, nearly the population of Northern Ireland, are living in dire poverty, with no facilities, but when you talk to everyone they have such energy and enthusiasm.

"When we got back we decided to start fundraising.

"We fund building projects and employ local labour.

"It's important to us that we fund local expertise, using local materials, and the buildings are created the way the different tribal communities want them to be."

The charity also offers education and training, as well as funding tree nurseries and maize mills.

Janet said: "We are the conduit for the kindness of the people of Northern Ireland.

"The key to our success is mutual trust, sitting down with the local community and talking through their needs.

"We always invite the women in, that's so important, and then cost up what is needed. They treat us like friends and welcome us to their villages.

"They know we bring the goodwill of the people of Northern Ireland."

Everything is funded by events held during the year including music gigs by blues guitarist Scott Ainslie.

Janet said: "We want to thank Scott for all his generosity. He identifies with our aims and with his wife is very much part of the Gift team."

Janet added: "I enjoy devoting time to the charity. It's so compelling, going back year on year and seeing the difference being made.

"We set up a tertiary education bursary and a young man called Oscar has just graduated from Nairobi University and gone back into his community to assist them.

"It's humbling for us to know how much a university education means to him and his family."

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