A RETIRED South Lakeland teacher was ‘totally overwhelmed with joy’ when presented with a live hen while visiting the Senegalese village where she sponsors a child.

Claire Griffel, of Kendal, said the gift was one of the biggest she could have received from the poorest family in the isolated village of Dembarou Kouro.

Ms Griffel was returning to the African country for the second time, to visit 10-year-old Bocar, whom she sponsors through charity World Vision.

“When I went in 2010 I was the first white person in living memory to have gone to the village,” she said.

“Again this time I was greeted with a sea of people and hands when I arrived – it was really very overwhelming. And a group of musicians and fire eaters had been brought in specially.”

One of the highlights of her seven-week trip was meeting newborn baby Claire, who had been named in honour of the Kendal woman.

Ms Griffel said: “It was a complete surprise and was absolutely fantastic.”

Although she sponsors Bocar, to whom she regularly sends letters and emails, her gifts help the whole village.

“I buy things from the local market, such as rice oil, sugar and tea – basic supplies for the families.

“And I gave Bocar’s grandmother some money for medication,” she said.

“I also used some of the money from my fundraising to buy solar panels for the village school as they have frequent power cuts.”

Following her stop in Dembarou Kouro, Ms Griffel made her way to the capital city of Dakar, where she then spent a month offering free English lessons.

She said: “I was giving lessons on the street, and had people queuing up for them including business owners and people from charities – they were all so keen to learn.”

Ms Griffel also met a head teacher in the village of Joal, to discuss a twinning project with a South Lakes school, which has been in the planning stages for quite some time.

“It’s all very exciting,” she said. “There will be obstacles as they are French speaking, but we are determined to make it work.”

Ms Griffel hopes to return to Senegal in the near future, and anyone interested or who would like to help with fundraising can contact her on 07927-720-497, or email clairegriff@hotmail.co.uk