Janelle Gibson, from Lennox Head-based charity Aussies for Orphans (left) with Darren Stratti and his wife Rebecca Delforce.
Janelle Gibson, from Lennox Head-based charity Aussies for Orphans (left) with Darren Stratti and his wife Rebecca Delforce. The Northern Star

Lennox woman mourns murdered friend

JANELLE Gibson freely shed tears as she spoke of the shooting death this week of an Australian man working on a project helping African children, which is partly funded by the Lennox Head-based charity Aussies for Orphans.

Darren Stratti, a 36-year-old father of two teenage boys, was an 'amazing man' who she was lucky to have had in her life, Ms Gibson said.

Mr Stratti, of Sydney, had been working in the tourist town of Arusha, in northern Tanzania, for the past 18 months with Australian not-for-profit organisation foodwatershelter, building an eco-friendly village to provide education, health and social facilities for women, children and orphans.

On Monday, he was shot in the chest at the volunteers' quarters in the village as bandits forced their way in and stole about $6000 from a safe, money which was to have been spent on building materials for the village.

A spokesman for the charity said he was protecting those around him - including his partner, foodwatershelter president Rebecka Delforce - when he was shot.

Ms Delforce and a nurse stationed in the quarters rushed Mr Stratti to two nearby hospitals, before finally finding treatment in a third, where he died.

Thirty local subsistence farmers also were working at the village, called Kesho Leo, which means 'tomorrow today', where Mr Stratti had been teaching them building skills.

No one else was injured in the robbery.

Ms Gibson worked with 'Daz' and the group as a volunteer teaching English for two-and-a-half months from January this year.

She last saw him three weeks ago during a visit to announce that Aussies for Orphans would provide $38,000 to the Tanzanian project, which is part of the $100,000 that Aussies for Orphans raised in an auction of a Ballina Heights home in January this year.

"Something good should come of this (his death)," she said yesterday.

"I guess we know the reality of working in a Third World country, but this is more shocking than anything that you could imagine.

"Darren was an amazing man. He was a real Aussie bloke.

"And we know that project will get finished and he'll still be there in spirit to monitor every bit of it."

Ms Gibson met Mr Stratti in January after her planned trip to Kenya fell through because of political unrest in the troubled African country.

She learned of foodwatershelter's work while searching for a new destination on the Internet and contacted them to work as a volunteer.

Founders of Aussies for Orphans, Steve and Sue Lewis, later visited and met Mr Stratti.

Ms Gibson said Mr Stratti made a 'huge impression' on her.

"I feel lucky to have met him and had him as part of my life - he was just one of those people," she said.

"He was such a gentle soul, loved to tease and have a joke and loved to play guitar and sing. I will have many beautiful memories of him."

The eight volunteers working at Kesha Leo have been pulled out temporarily, but foodwatershelter said the project would still go ahead.

Aussies for Orphans is determined to complete the project. To donate call 6687 6004 or
0434 025 933.

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