MORE than a decade ago June Martin was so touched by the plight of a friend's parents, facing starvation as a result of a Zambian drought, that she sent the money she had to help pay for relief.

Mrs Martin's contact with the African state was through a friend and fellow church worshipper Jennifer Musakanya and that was the starting point for an enduring link with the country which led directly to the formation of the Mpika Relief Fund, which is now a decade old.

It has matured into a charity which operates an orphanage, school and farm while also providing fees for children to attend high school to get the education which may not only bring them a prosperous future but also help raise the country's aspirations.

However, it is not only the needy in Africa who benefit. The fund now has three shops and it aims to sell most items of clothing at £1, an acknowledgement that many in Bradford suffer real deprivation and benefit from the work of the fund's volunteers.

The orphanage accommodates around 30 youngsters, some who have arrived as babies though some are eventually re-homed with relatives.

The school was established to provide an education for those children and others, with the farm also helping to secure the community's future.

In Bradford, the fund needs to raise £3,500 every month to support the work in Zambia, which is overseen by Jennifer.

The first charity shop in Denholme still acts as the Fund's headquarters but there is also a second shop at Keighley and a furniture store at Black Dyke Mills in Queensbury to help fundraising efforts.

"The drought got better after a couple of years but we had a committee together by then and it seemed a shame to leave it there," said Mrs Martin.

"We got our heads together and decided to start an orphanage, got the shop and raised the money to g over and search for premises," she said.

"My friend is very enterprising and they have built a school so now there is the orphanage, school and a farm.

"All our money goes directly to the cause but we try to be community orientated over here as well, we sell most clothing for £1 because we know many people have needs here, too."

The fund faces a constant struggle to keep the cash flowing which is a lifeline for children in the orphanage and is now looking at the possibility of opening a further shop.

In the meantime, a tea and cakes day has been organised for Saturday to draw attention to the Black Dyke Mills shop, with customers being offered free refreshments.