Superstar Cher steps in to save orphanage

AFTER spending their life savings, Robert and Eleanor Wood thought the African orphanage they set up three years ago might have to close.

But just as the money run out, an international superstar came to the rescue.

Cher has pledged crucial funds for the Edinburgh's couple's orphanage in Kenya, which educates 360 children.

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The pop legend has bought five acres of land for a new building and play area and pledged 2000 a month to its upkeep.

Mr Wood, who decided to set up the Peace Village School on a visit to Kenya with his wife in 2005, said: "We rent the land the school is on and the landowners had threatened to chuck us off on Christmas Day.

"So about five miles up the road we discovered five acres of green, lush land, with coconut trees, papaya and even a fresh water well.

"Without big money donors like Cher we just wouldn't be able to survive."

The singer and actress initially came to the Woods' aid after he broadcast a plea on various television channels three years ago.

Soon after his broadcast she made contact with him and – with the support of fellow Hollywood star Clint Eastwood – promised to help out the charity.

Mr Wood said: "She always said if we found new land she would support us so I phoned her up and said, 'Cher, we've got somewhere and it's perfect'."

Once the school is built it is hoped the area will also be able to acquire chickens and other cattle and eventually sell produce at the local market to become self sufficient.

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Mr Wood, 52, who now lives in Fife but runs the charity from the Capital, said: "This school makes a radical difference to the lives of the children in the area. We found out recently that about 80 per cent of them have the HIV virus.

"They live only a mile from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world yet they've never dipped their foot in the water, and they have never seen wild animals even though Kenya has some of the rarest and most interesting species on the planet."

Mr Wood, a former railwayman and chef, said that without the support of Cher, the charity would barely have got off the ground in the first place.

"Thanks to that we have been able to give them two full meals, including fresh fruit, and a much improved life," he added.

The organisation has various fundraising events coming up to boost the charity coffers.

These include a cabaret and auction which will take place at the Gorgie Suite in Tynecastle at a date still to be decided, while staff at the Specsavers branch on Shandwick Place are set to host an in-store fundraising day on Saturday April 5.

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