DAVE Watts MP has embarked on a school tour to spread the word about a cause that is particularly close to his heart.
Following a recent visit to Ethiopia, the MP for St Helens North has been telling local pupils about the Jerusalem Centre - an organisation which helps street orphans in the poverty-stricken African country.
As part of the tour, Mr Watts paid a visit to Billinge Chapel End Primary School last week.
He told the St Helens Reporter: “I’ve had an interest in the fortunes of Ethiopia since the famine in the 1980s and, as chairman of education at the time, we joined forces with local schools to raise money for the appeal.
“When I visited Ethiopia a couple of months ago I got to see how street orphans, some as young as six-years-old, have to go out to work in order to feed themselves - either carrying things or selling oranges at the side of the road.
“Sadly, it’s common for mothers to die during childbirth over there and then for fathers to abandon the child.
“But the Jerusalem Centre provides an evening education for these children - once they’ve finished work - which gives them the chance to get out of abject poverty. It’s such a wonderful organisation.
“Local people are also encouraged to adopt the orphans and communities then become involved so that the centre can move on and help another area.”
During his Ethiopia visit, Mr Watts also got to see how the emergence of glass factories and clothes manufacturers is starting to offer people the chance of work.
He added: “I wrote to the St Helens schools on my return and have been talking to the children about the differences in our cultures.
“The local kids really relate to what some of the Ethiopian children have to go through and have been asking some really good questions. You can’t help but be touched by the thought of little children out there having to go out to work.
“Out of the eight St Helens schools who responded, some have even started raising money for the Jerusalem Centre. After my visit to Carr Mill Primary, for example, £250 has been raised by the school.”