TWENTY five years ago, thousands of men, women and children were killed during the brutal Rwandan genocide.

On the other side of the world, Maralyn Bambridge was living a peaceful life in the quiet village of Brantham, near Manningtree.

But the two worlds collided due to a chance visit and Maralyn’s life changed forever.

At the time, 22 years ago, Maralyn, 76, was running a photographic business with her husband, Michael.

They were visited by a commercial photographer who brought in films from his visit to the refugee camps.

Maralyn said: “Following this, I researched the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and what I discovered drove me to founding the charity.

“It was run from our High Street premises in Manningtree.

“The aim of the charity was and is to bring practical aid to the orphans and widows of the genocide which now has moved on to vulnerable children, widows and survivors.

“I care so much for Rwanda having first visited in 2001 and seen the effects of the 1994 genocide.

“As the years have gone on, the work of the charity has changed and the infant feeding programme is the latest project, which will now be on-going.

“I have seen the infants crying with hunger which is totally heart-breaking and this is the first time I have had the opportunity to get something organised.”

During the past 22 years, Engalynx has supplied numerous items for the orphans and widows in Rwanda including two containers of hospital equipment.

It has also helped to fund the conversion of a building into a training centre for young boys.

Goats have been provided to more than 400 families and microscopes, beds, books have been provided to a school in the north of Rwanda.

A hairdressing training scheme was run in Kigali, in which eight girls were fully trained giving them the opportunity to make a living and work their way out of poverty.

School fees and health insurance fees have been provided for some of the poorest children together with school uniforms.

Training schemes in dressmaking and tailoring has been provided work for 27 women who now run their own co-operative.

Maralyn said: “The most rewarding project was the completion and equipping of the maternity unit in Ntunga, in the eastern region of Rwanda.

“This unit now has an average of 30 babies born there per month and the executive secretary of the district tells me that we have saved many lives by supplying this unit.

“We are also contributing toward the building of the rest of the health centre with the foundation stone having been laid in September 2019.”

The infant feeding programme is the latest project and was set up last year.

Since then the charity has fed 90 children aged between two and six-years-old with the expectation of feeding more than 120 children this year.

Over the 22 years, a total of £207,124 has been raised by the charity to pay for these initiatives.

For Maralyn, running the charity has been a labour of love.

She has run it mostly on her own with support from her late husband.

“I have trustees,” she said, “but I do all the administration and planning.

“It’s really hard but I got used to it because I love Rwanda and the work I do.”

Maralyn still remembers her first visit to the country in 2002.

She said: “My husband couldn’t go with me and no-one else fancied Rwanda.

“I thought it would be my one and only trip but I was very wrong.

“Since 2004, I have visited annually which means I have good contacts there and I am able to oversee the projects.

“Rwanda is a beautiful country with lovely people.

“It is clean and modern and has wonderful safaris and trips to the gorillas.”

Marayln also works as a pastor at the East Bergholt Congregational Church although she has been on leave for the past six months as her husband died four months ago.

The funds for the charity have been raised through a myriad of events including giving talks, donations and concerts at St Mary’s Church, in Mistley.

Meals have been organised at the Mogul restaurant in Manningtree and there have been fashion shows.

Money was also raised by concerts organised by the Stour Valley Rotary Club, also having continuous support from the Kelvedon Rotary Club.

The charity also sells Rwandans’ arts and crafts.

Maralyn said: “The charity means so much to me now.

“When I first started I though I’d be doing it for only ten years or so, but now I can’t seem to let go.

“It’s just such an important part of my life now and I’ll carry on as long as I can.

“I accept I’m old but I can still do it.”