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There’s monkey business in Helmsley as local business owner heads to Uganda for conservation work

Lynn Hempsall, from Helmsley Traditional Sweet Shop, heads off with 35 letters from local school children and donations to help plant trees

A Ryedale businesswoman is heading out on her third trip to help the Great Apes – and she’s taking a taste of life in Helmsley with her, for the school she’ll be working with.

Lynn Hempsall, who runs the Helmsley Traditional Sweet Shop, had never travelled alone or outside Europe when she decided to do her first self-funded trip to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Borneo in June 2015.

Lynn will head out on a second trip to Uganda on 22nd January, to volunteer at a schools and conservation project for three weeks.

The Great Apes are dramatically depleting in numbers and will likely become extinct in the next 20 years due to the logging and deforestation of their habitat.

Volunteering in the Kisoro area, Lynn will go into schools with the team and help the children understand about conservation and why they need to protect the habitat of the mountain gorillas. With no electricity, information DVDs have to be powered by someone riding a pushbike to work the generator, and some of the children have never seen moving images before.

Lynn went into Helmsley Community Primary School just before Christmas to tell them about her trip, and pupils from years five and six have written letters, which Lynn will take with her to give to a school in Uganda. It is hoped she might be able to twin the schools, so they can keep in touch and learn about life in a different country.

Lynn said: “I feel so excited so be heading back to Uganda. When I first signed up to go to Borneo three years ago, I didn’t know if I was mad. But it has always been my dream to see great apes in the wild – and when you really let yourself understand that in 20 years there may be none left, I felt I had to do something, even if it took me well out of my comfort zone!

“On this trip I’m volunteering with the wonderful Denis Agaba, and when we go into schools he takes a DVD narrated by David Attenborough to tell the children all about the mountain gorillas. Many have never seen them as the trek is too hard – I did it and got terrible altitude sickness, but what an experience!

“The school I went to last time had over 500 pupils and in truth the hall resembled a run-down farm barn. But while these children do not have much, they are happy and just a few extras mean the world to them. I am taking pencils, pens and flip flops with me – but there’s a limit to how much I can fit in my suitcase unfortunately.”

To help provide more for the communities, and to support the wildlife in Uganda, people have also donated money so Lynn can buy exercise books and sanitary items for the pupils once she arrives. Lynn is also asking if people would like to donate £1.50 to buy a tree which the children in Uganda will plant as conservation to preserve the gorillas and chimps. Anyone wishing to donate should pop in to the Helmsley Traditional Sweetshop, which is on Barkers Yard, or email helmsleysweetshop@gmail.com

Claire Lamb, headteacher at Helmsley Community Primary School, said: “The children were very excited about Lynn’s visit and enjoyed looking at her photographs from her previous visits.  We enjoyed learning about the schools that she visited in Uganda and looking at the pictures of the school children and their classrooms.  We made lots of comparisons to Helmsley and learnt a lot about the differences.  Hearing about the apes and gorillas was very interesting and we are looking forward to hearing about Lynn’s next trip. The children produced some wonderful letters and are excited to be linked to a school in Uganda.  This is such a great opportunity for the pupils of Helmsley Community Primary School.”

Lynn continues: “I am hoping to get more groups and schools involved when I come back – it’s great to understand how life is for others and it certainly grounds you when you see how happy people can be with so little. Plus, the country is so far ahead of us in terms of conservation – very few pre-packed goods exist and plastic carriers have recently been banned. The country itself is beautiful and of course the wildlife is incredible – last time I saw elephants, hippos, lions and so many more, as well as being in touching distance of a huge male silverback mountain gorilla.”