A SCOTTISH student attacked by robbers wielding machetes in a terrifying night raid on an
orphanage she set up in Africa had to make a desperate call home to her mother for help.
• Scottish student in Kenya caught up in attack in which three men broke into orphanage wielding machetes
• Gemma Steele was asleep in orphanage she had set up in Nakuru, Kenya
• Ms Steele was forced to call home from UK mobile to parents in South Uist after Kenyan phone had been stolen in raid
But later, she put a reassuringly calm message on Facebook: “The festive period in Kenya can be a dangerous time.”
Gemma Steele was asleep at a children’s home in Kenya on a visit during the Christmas break when three men burst in at around 3am, threatening her and the 16 orphans.
The gang fled with hundreds of pounds which Miss Steele, 21, and supporters in her home on South Uist had raised for the orphanage, along with her local mobile phone.
Terrified that their attackers might return, and unable to contact friends locally because their numbers were in the stolen mobile, she used her UK phone to call her family’s home thousands of miles away in
Lochboisdale. Mother Marion, 40, a teacher, said: “It was about ten to midnight here on the Friday after Christmas when she rang. She didn’t say much, just that they had been robbed and that they were all fine, and asked if I could get her the number for the family who she normally stays with there so she could call them for help.
“I was pacing the floor because she asked me to call her back as soon as I had the number, and I was phoning and phoning but it was just ringing out.
“She managed to phone me back about half an hour later, it felt a lot longer. They didn’t have any electricity so they couldn’t charge the phone they had, and it was low.”
Mrs Steele said that her daughter was unlikely to abandon the orphans after opening the children’s home with two other students almost a year ago.
She added: “This is the first time anything [bad] has happened. I think she will carry on regardless of what anyone says because she is at the coal-face and she knows these children personally now.”
Miss Steele, who is studying occupational therapy at Glasgow Caledonian University, decided to establish the children’s home at Nakuru, about two hours from Nairobi, in 2009, while
working at another orphanage and teaching in primary schools.
It was officially opened in January last year. Her joiner cousin, Chris, 25, also from South Uist, had gone with her to help improve the building and was also there during the raid. Reporting the robbery to supporters on the St Jerome’s Facebook page, Miss Steele appeared surprisingly good-humoured as she made a plea for donations to replace the stolen money.
Her message read: “Unfortunately we have had all of our funds stolen from us. The festive period in Kenya can be a dangerous time. Everyone is OK and in good spirits.”