A GREAT Sankey man who has revolutionised tourism in one of the poorest countries of Africa is appealing to residents to help fund a development project to improve the lives of orphans.

Mike Brady, aged 44, of Birdwell Close, lived in Mbewa village at the foot of Mulanje mountain in Malawi from 1992 to 1996, going there initially as a secondary school science teacher with Voluntary Services Overseas before becoming a hospital maintenance supervisor.

Shortly before leaving Africa in 1996, Mike alongside his guide Francis Atiya, organised a 25km race on Mulanje mountain, the highest peak in Central Africa, as a thank you to the porters.

The first race attracted 33 contestants and since then has evolved into an annual event forming part of Malawi’s tourism strategy with some 300 competitors from around the world taking part in the last race in July.

Mike, who is a campaigns and networking co-ordinator for Baby Milk Action, said: “It’s great how a simple idea can capture the imagination and take off.

“I first went to Malawi, known as the warm heart of Africa, because I wanted to try to help with its development.

“Since leaving I have kept in touch with my friends in Mbewa.

“My family and I have been helping them with small sums of money for projects and I was able to visit these projects and work on plans for some more when I went back for the first time in 13 years in June.”

The Mbewa Self-Help Project is run by the villagers to improve their lives in Mbewa where life expectancy is 39 years and mortality among under fives is 140 per 1,000 live births – more than 20 times the rate in the UK.

Among the projects are an irrigation scheme to grow maize as a cash crop, raising chickens and fish farming.

Mike added: “The villagers also make money as guides or porters and from wood carvings.

“The irrigation scheme evolved in 2005 when there was a drought and they were basically asking for money to buy food because people were starving to death.

“The villagers are into self-help and the priority of the committee is to build a maize mill to create income to help the orphans with school fees.”

Mike added: “Going back after 13 years I felt like I was going home. I’m very proud of what they have done – this is a very positive story of self-help.”

l Anyone able to help the villagers with either a donation or a loan or organisations interested in hearing a presentation by Mike should call 07986 736179 or visit maravilha.co.uk/mbewa/ for more information.