Kanahooka woman's love finds orphans

In just six months a Kanahooka woman has moved mountains for a desperately poor African community.

"We sent a young boy to Rwanda to receive life-saving treatment he has been waiting for his entire life," Cassandra Relf said after returning from her latest two-month stint in Burundi.

"We built a security fence around a family's home to protect their young daughters from drunken predators.

"And we released two young girls severely burnt in a house fire from hospital after their mother died. They were being kept as prisoners until their deceased mother's hospital bill was paid."

Ms Relf, who returned to Australia on Christmas Eve, is thrilled so many people have thrown their support behind her charity in response to a Mercury article in June last year.

Orphans Eyes Association was born after the casual teacher met starving, abused and homeless orphans during a trip to Africa.

The trip - her 21st birthday present - was life-changing for the young woman.

Ms Relf and her supporters have made a real difference on the ground in Burundi.

During her recent stay, 46 orphans were provided with food for the entire two months she was there, and 26 children in the Makamba province were clothed, fed and given soap.

"We fed nine families for a week in Makamba and fed 18 young adults in Makamba whilst I provided them with encouragement for a better future through education," Ms Relf said.

"We provided Shemeza music school with three keyboards, provided eight months rent for an abandoned and homeless mother and her baby and gave the mother a business selling fruit and vegetables in the local market."

Ms Relf said she was touched by the "genuine joy and appreciation that these people are able to give you".

"In the midst of people that have nothing the joy that abounds and the love you receive from them is the greatest gift of all," she said.

"Our real mission in Burundi is not really about the physical blessing itself but rather a message of hope for the future. It is a hopeless place and people need to see a gift that shows them there is hope for the future."

Ms Relf said she was living proof that "when you step out to do something great for someone else, you are not forgotten".

"My boyfriend proposed to me during my last trip in Burundi. My fiance is David Nduwimana, whom I met on my first trip into Burundi. I like to say that I found love in a hopeless place."

Ms Relf was nominated for the 2013 Wollongong Young Citizen of the Year award for her work so far. She and her fiance - who plan to share their time between Wollongong and Burundi - have bigger plans for the future.

"Within the next five years we want to build a trade school in Burundi to teach young men and women the skill of trades associated with building.

"During their courses the students will be set to work to build an orphanage, school and hospital. We want to provide the people of Burundi the opportunity to not only gain a hand up but acquire a skill that they can then use to earn money."

The building project has been broken down into stages, with an overall budget of $150,000.

Visit www.orphans eyes.com

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