A STUDENT who went to Africa for a six-month post study break had no idea his trip would turn into a two-year visit that would change his life.
Costa Yiannakis, a tourism management student at the University of Chester, says what he experienced when he returned to his place of birth in Southern Malawi affected him profoundly.
Since 2009 the 25-year-old, along with his two brothers, has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of those living in Masuku village by establishing the Masuku Tree of Life project. He is now applying for charitable status for the scheme and marketing student Katherine Holder has already designed the charity’s logo.
Born in Blantyre, 130 miles from Masuku, Costa came to England in 2003 and studied at Oxford Brookes University before taking a gap break and heading to Africa in 2006.
He said: “When you go to Africa your heart changes.
“It was very humbling experience for me. I looked at my life and realised how incredibly fortunate I am. This made me want to do something to help the people that I had met.”
Costa’s family has solid historical links with the village – his grandfather built the village’s school and its first Anglican Church.
Supported by his two older brothers, Costa hopes the Masuku Tree of Life project will develop these foundations.
He added: “We want to continue the work that he started and help the people of Masuku, who are so warm-hearted and friendly even in the face of such poverty, to become more self-sufficient and proactive.
“Water is the biggest concern so we want to be able to fund a bore hole but we would also like to develop projects to support reforestation, sustainable farming and build up arts and crafts projects.”
The Rotary Club of Florence has pledged financial support to the project and Costa has no shortage of first year tourism management students volunteering to organise fundraising events.
On Sunday Costa, and fellow members of the university’s rowing team will be taking part in the Shell Chester Half Marathon to raise funds for and awareness of the project.
To find out how you can get involved with the project, contact Costa at firstname.lastname@example.org.