A RESTAURATEUR is preparing to turn the tables on her life in Scotland by travelling to Ethiopia to live with a congregation of nuns.
Virginie Brouard already sponsors almost 800 orphans in Africa and has donated thousands of pounds to feed them.
Now the mother of two from Midlothian is heading to Ethiopia, where she will live with the congregation and visit starving families.
The 40-year-old from Eskbank, Dalkeith, will travel alone to Mekelle in the north of the country.
Mrs Brouard, who owns restaurants La P’tite Folie in Randolph Place and Frederick Street, and Le Di-Vin Wine Bar in Randolph Place, has already donated almost £15,000 to the orphans – the majority of it her own money.
It will be her third trip in less than two years after first visiting the impoverished town in June 2010.
Mrs Brouard, below, said: “I’ll stay with the nuns from the congregation the Daughters of Charity.
“They have various projects like housing and looking after street children, and they also run four health clinics.
“When I got in touch with Sister Medhin Tesfay, the co-ordinator of the charity, she mentioned they were looking for a sponsor for a feeding programme for orphans. I agreed to help. I transfer money about three times a year to the nuns who order food.”
She added: “I will never forget my first visit to Latchi Clinic in Mekelle. Seeing hundreds of children queuing for a bowl of porridge was distressing.
“When children arrive at the clinics, they are weighed and we measure their upper arm to see how malnourished they are. It is then very difficult to have to choose who can stay, and who we have to reject.”
During her visits to Ethiopia, which is home to almost five million orphans, Mrs Brouard also spends time playing with the children.
She added: “One day me and a sister had to go in the jeep up the mountain to pick up a young woman who was giving birth – she had walked 14 miles to try to get to the clinic.
“I also met a very old man who had walked over ten miles to get two paracetamols.”
Mrs Brouard described her husband Ghislain as a “great support”, but added that he was always glad when she returned home safely.
Mrs Brouard has two sons, 16-year-old Milan and Pierre, five, and she plans to take Milan with her to Ethiopia in 2013.
She said: “I intend to help as long as I can. I wish I had more time.”