John's long trip out of Africa

A charity worker has finally come home from Africa after being stranded by the volcanic ash cloud.

John Noble, 70, of Priory Road, flew out to Malawi on March 31 as part of a group of nine volunteers working on farming projects.

They were due to fly back on April 17, but after the explosion of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull, flights across Europe were grounded and it was nine days before John finally got back to the UK.

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"It was difficult but we had a few laughs to keep us going," he said.

It was the second time John had been to the country with the Starfish Malawi project and it was an eye-opening experience.

"It is a tremendous culture shock because it is one of the poorest countries in the world," he said.

"But the people are very loving. We went to villages where they had nothing but they insisted on giving us lunch and brought out what they could. Since I came back my wife and I have been shopping and to be honest I find supermarkets here a bit obscene in comparison '“ there is so much food."

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John was away for his granddaughter's first birthday and admitted seeing children suffering was hard to take.

"We visited an HIV/Aids centre which was quite traumatic but all the kids there were dancing and singing for us. There was a two-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and Aids so it really puts your life in perspective."

News of the volcano and the chaos it brought left John and his group stuck in their hotel.

"We were running low on money because you plan as best you can but this was an emergency," he said.

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"The people at the hotel gave us 40 per cent off our bill so we swept our own floors and made our own beds."

After a showdown with airline officials, John and his fellow volunteers were offered a flight last Wednesday, which he caught by the skin of his teeth after a mad dash to the airport and a helpful delay caused by the president of Malawi's motorcade,

"We had a very successful trip but I am glad to be home," said John.

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