Virginie Brouard’s Edinburgh restaurants offer fine French food to the discerning diner. But Virginie is also feeding a very different clientele thousands of miles away in Ethiopia.
Virginie left her native France when she was 19, giving up a university course, and came to the UK to work for a chain of French restaurants, where she quickly learned all she could about the food and wine business.
Five years later she opened her first restaurant La P’tite Folie in Edinburgh. Today she has three restaurants in the city and her success now meant she was in a position to help underprivileged children.
But she wanted to make sure that she found the right charity. “I’ve always wanted to see Ethiopia so I went for a visit there five years ago,” says Virginie, 45.
“I contacted an order of nuns who ran the Daughters of Charity in the city of Gondar, and asked if I could come and see them.
“Their focus is to provide basic health service to the needy people like orphans and vulnerable children.
“I chose to sponsor a feeding programme – the money I give goes towards buying food including grains, wheat, flour and sugar, which is made into a nutritious porridge and fed to around 800 orphans to make sure they have at least one well-balanced meal a day.
As well as helping in the clinic, Virginie has given £26,000, mostly from her own money, to the charity and, following a visit earlier this year, hopes to return before Christmas.
“The situation is not good just now,” she says. “The rain did not come this year. This promises a drought and with drought comes famine – a certain death for millions in a country where 90% of the population are farmers.
Virginie has three children – Milan, 21, Pierre, nine, and four-year-old Genat, whom she adopted from Ethiopia in 2012.
“She is very funny, very bright and so strong and beautiful (as Ethiopian women are). I am very much looking forward to showing her her roots,” Virginie smiles.
For more info or to donate to the Daughters of Charity, visit www.laptitefolie.co.uk
Ethiopia in a nutshell
Ethiopia is one of only two nations in the world never to have been occupied. (Liberia is the other one.)
Ethiopia (once known as Abyssinia) is home to 4.5 million orphans.
The Ethiopian calendar has 13 months and the calendar is eight years behind the Western calendar.
Ethiopia is the country where coffee was first discovered, in the South area called Kaffa.
It is ranked the second poorest country in the world.
Ethiopia has 63 airports but only 17 have a tarmac or paved runway.
There are as many as 84 languages in Ethiopia.
The life expectancy of the average Ethiopian was 59 years old in 2014.
Ethiopia and its people appear a lot in the Holy Bible and also in The Koran and The Odyssey.
Ethiopia is considered the cradle of civilization and was where the oldest human skeleton was found and named Lucy.