A restaurateur from Eskbank used to providing fine French cuisine was serving up love during her latest charity trip to Ethiopia.
Virginie Brouard is the owner of the Le Di-Vin wine bar and La P’tite Folie restaurant, both in Edinburgh’s West End.
She has just returned from her most recent trip to Ethiopia where she has been involved in charity work through the Daughters of Charity, a mission of 60 nuns who run orphanages in Ethiopia. The country is also very close to her heart as she adopted her daughter Genat from there four years ago.
She said: “At the compound I was delighted to see everybody remembered me, from the guard at the door, the nannies, some of the children and the nuns.
“There is a drought just now in northern Ethiopia, and with drought comes famine. A certain death for millions in a country where 90 per cent of the population are farmers.
“People here suffer unspeakably yet their smiles are wide and genuine.
“Each time I saw a little girl begging or working in the streets, half naked, eyes and mouth infected, I couldn’t help but think of my Genat.
“I then noticed all the armed guards outside banks, government offices, at the gates of the hotels. This brought it all into perspective for me. Ethiopia is a country peacefully at war with itself, because of extreme poverty.
“But people here bear their burden so gracefully. They have felt it for so long, they probably feel numb.”
Virginie was shocked by what she discovered while working in a clinic on her trip.
She said: “The first morning I arrived at the clinic I noticed so many people waiting at the gates. The beggars, the mothers bringing their sick children, all waiting in silence to be taken in.
“Every morning, we welcomed more malnourished children. I admit it was beyond what I had expected.
“All the children I saw had skin sores, especially around the mouth and eyes. Most had chronic coughs. I also noticed their slightly reddish hair, which indicates that their bodies are lacking sufficient protein. Their joints were so swollen that it hurts them to move.
“I found it difficult to refuse treatment to a child. To my eyes, all the children needed treatment but the clinic cannot afford it. It was hard to look a mother in the eyes and tell her that her child is not sick enough.
“The task is enormous and I admit I sometimes felt despair. I want to believe I went there to make a positive impact on the children’s world but it was them who impacted my world.
“Unfortunately, I feel things are not getting any better, although the Daughters of Charity are doing a fantastic job, and with my support I could see that many children are benefiting.”