A PENSIONER who set up a school for orphans in poverty-stricken Uganda is appealing for people to dig deep for the youngsters.

Mike Willetts, from Warton, near Carnforth, who founded the Kitale School in 2005, is asking people to sponsor a child through education to give them a chance of a better life.

“To them, education is a precious gift and they appreciate every second of it,” he said.

“Some of them walk up to 10 kilometres to get to school.

“They deserve a future just as much as anyone else, but unfortunately cannot be sure of one without the help of others.”

He wants people to give up £8 a month, which will pay for a child’s food, clothing and tuition.

The 70-year-old explained that he set up the school, located 100 miles from Kampala, after visiting the country in 2002 on a ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ tour.

As part of the holiday he trekked through remote villages and towns and was left shocked at the poverty he encountered.

“The poverty in some parts of Africa is unbelievable,” he said.

“Forget what you’ve seen on the television — what you see in real life is unimaginable. We have so much and they have so little.”

He had also sponsored a child for several years but was concerned that his money was not going directly to the pupil.

So in 2006, he raised £5,000 and returned to Uganda to offer assistance.

He was pointed in the direction of Kitale by a local aid organisation, where he offered to use the cash for either a school or for a better water supply.

To his surprise, the elders of the town chose a new school, so that the youngsters might have more chances than them.

“I was overwhelmed at that,” he said. “I thought they’d choose water, I really did.”

Fate then lent a helping hand, when an official from the area of Buganda heard about his plight and donated land for the school to be built on.

Since then, thanks to his hard work, he has seen the school grow from three classrooms with 75 pupils to a building bustling with almost 350 children, all aged between five and 14.

A friend of Mike’s from Norfolk has also fundraised tirelessly since then to help keep the school afloat financially.

Hundreds of children have been vaccinated against diseases such as malaria, while several school leavers have been employed full-time tending to the grounds of the school itself.

For more information about the school or how to sponsor a child, visit www.kitaleschooluganda.org