From book club to supporting Africa orphanage

Arusha Orphans' Charitable Trust sponsors Jan (left) and Ross Parry, and founder Pauline Hope, look over photos of children from an orphanage the Wanaka-based charity has supported for eight years. Photo by Lucy Ibbotosn.
Arusha Orphans' Charitable Trust sponsors Jan (left) and Ross Parry, and founder Pauline Hope, look over photos of children from an orphanage the Wanaka-based charity has supported for eight years. Photo by Lucy Ibbotosn.
From reading and reviewing books to rescuing hundreds of homeless children, a group of Wanaka women has achieved a great deal more than they set out to when they formed a book club 12 years ago.

The Wanaka-based Arusha Orphans' Charitable Trust was founded by

 Pauline Hope - a member of the Paradise Book Club, who was moved by the plight of young people living in the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha while visiting the area nearly a decade ago.

Mrs Hope's niece, Madeline Oosterhuis, a former Dunedin woman, lives in Arusha and had established a home for native pregnant teenage girls who had been tossed out of home and were left roaming the streets.

''Madeline took them under her wing, bought a little house and she feeds them and they can sleep there until they have their babies,'' Mrs Hope said.

Next to the home was a struggling orphanage with about 80 ''beautiful children'' housed in primitive conditions, which Mrs Hope told her book club friends about when she returned to New Zealand.

Buoyed by the encouragement of her fellow readers, and with time on her hands to help others, she established a trust to support the orphanage.

After the book club held an evening event to launch the trust, sponsorship offers began flooding in.

Eight years on, the trust has set up a school at the orphanage and clothed, educated and fed at least 300 children who have passed through its doors.

Mrs Hope is one of four trustees. There are about 100 sponsors involved, who pay $60 annually to provide school books and stationery, clothing and food for one child for a year. Some make extra donations, an average of $10,000 being sent to Arusha every year, which has also paid for Christmas presents, a playground and sports equipment.

The trust recently started supporting a second school in the city.

''It's quite nice to be able to do something for somebody else and ... the money goes straight to Madeline [who buys supplies for the orphanage] - there's no middle man,'' Mrs Hope said.

Mrs Oosterhuis regularly sends photos and updates on the children, which Mrs Hope distributes in newsletters to members.

Jan and Ross Parry, who divide their time between Dunedin and Wanaka, visited Arusha in 2011 with two other couples who were already trust sponsors. While they were there, shoes bought by the trust were being handed out to the children at the orphanage.

''To see those wee kids' faces light up,'' Mr Parry said.

After seeing firsthand the ''amazing poverty'' in Arusha and the great work the trust was doing, the Parrys immediately signed up to support the charity.

All 12 of the book club women originally involved in the trust's formation are ongoing sponsors, and they have also sponsored a bed at the Arusha hospital.

Mrs Hope is holding an information evening as part of the trust's annual get-together on February 2, where she hopes to attract more sponsors.