Teenager who vows to rebuild destroyed nursery is nominated for award

Kirsty Kalyan
Kirsty Kalyan

Seeing the nursery school you helped build destroyed could put some people off charity work for life.

But not Bedford teenager Kirsty Kalyan, who has been nominated for a Young People of the Year Award (YOPEY).

Kirsty has worked tirelessly with the Priory Methodist Church to fund projects in South Africa and this year saw their efforts build and furnish a nursery for poor children in a shanty township outside Johannesburg.

However, during a visit to Mohlakeng, South Africa, to meet the staff and children at the nursery it was wrecked and looted by locals as political tension erupted into violence.

Kirsty said her visit was an eye-opener. “I was struck by how the people lived,” she said. “It is a simple way of life the houses have corrugated iron roofs with no electricity or running water. We took mugs for the children as there was only one cup for all of them in the nursery.”

The teenager added: “It made me appreciate what we have at home but the children there seemed so happy and always smiling.”

On hearing the nursery was destroyed after her visit Kirsty pledged to rebuild it.

She said: “We were told the next day nursery had been attacked and when we got there it was upsetting to see,” said Kirsty. “It was badly damaged, there was glass everywhere and even the bed in the sick bay had been stolen.”

Originally, she had raised more than £300 for the nursery with numerous events at school, at church and a lot of babysitting.

Kirsty, from Merton Road, Bedford, has 21 families on her babysitting books, with the biggest brood having five little ones.

“I am out every night most weeks and there are weekends and holidays,” she said. “Fortunately I love children.”

The 17-year-old’s fundraising efforts and her determination to help the children of Mohlakeng has earned her a nomination for the YOPEY award. She was put forward by Roshan Juma, Sixth Form Centre Manager at St Thomas More Catholic Teaching School in Bedford.

Kirsty had taken several assemblies at the Tyne Crescent school to raise awareness about the project and Mr Juma also praised her commitment at school as an ICT Mentor, encouraging and inspiring younger students and supporting the ICT staff.

Kirsty also helps run the Priory Methodist Church’s Messy Church for young children and raises money for Breast Cancer UK. Kirsty was adopted at the age of two and her birth mother, who she had contacted since, died of breast cancer in 2011.

Kirsty has already organised a programme of fundraising quizzes, a barn dance and a host of other events and raffles towards the rebuilding fund.

This year’s YOPEY is being sponsored by many businesses and organisations including Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service, Central Bedfordshire Council, Atlas Converting Equipment of Kempston, Movianto of Bedford, William Jackson Food Group which includes Parripak in Chicksands, and Carlisle Managed Solutions.

To nominate a young person, or group of young people, for a YOPEY go to www.yopey.org or write, enclosing an SAE, to YOPEY, Woodfarm Cottage, Bury Road, Stradishall, Newmarket CB8 8YN for paper entry form.

Nominations close on Tuesday, January 14, 2014.