MOST people will travel a fair way over Christmas, but Gillian Smith’s just returned from a 7,000 mile-round trip for a festive get-together.
Gillian, 54, flew to Ghana to meet two girls she sponsors through children’s charity Plan UK.
And it was an emotional reunion with the family of one of the girls, 18-year-old Rita, who Gillian last saw five years ago.
Gillian, a care manager, said: “Driving up the rough path towards Rita’s village was very exciting, although I did feel a bit apprehensive.
“I remembered how Rita was on my last visit – a very beautiful and shy 13-year-old.
“I have some fantastic memories of that trip.”
Money donated to Plan through sponsorship funds projects for the benefit of entire communities, including schools and health clinics.
After a tour of Rita’s school, Gillian headed for the family home.
“It was very emotional to see them all again,” said Gillian.
Gillian was told of Rita’s progress at school before the conversation took a more sombre tone.
“It was sad to be reminded about the passing of Samuel, Rita’s father, and learn more about the extra pressures the family is facing as a result,” said Gillian.
The get-together ended on a high, however, as Gillian, from Leeds Road, Dewsbury, and Rita’s family exchanged gifts.
“I’d taken lots of small toys and craft items to be shared with the whole family and friends,” said Gillian.
After an emotional farewell, Gillian and friend Patricia Rand, 57, visited Elizabeth, 13, who Gillian started sponsoring when Rita reached 18.
Gillian said: “There was a lot of enthusiasm when Patricia presented a football. We’ve got some unforgettable memories of another very special visit.”
For information about sponsoring a child call 0300 777 9777.