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Tributes after ‘inspirational’ Ilfracombe youth worker dies in Kenya

16:46 25 May 2014

Christi Kelly pictured with children in Kenya, adding her own call to the campaign to prevent youth service cuts.

Christi Kelly pictured with children in Kenya, adding her own call to the campaign to prevent youth service cuts.


Friends and family mourn the sudden death of popular Christi Kelly from malaria.

ILFRACOMBE has been left stunned following the sudden death in Kenya of a 21-year-old youth worker from the town.

Christi Belle Kelly died on Wednesday morning at a hospital in Nairobi after falling ill with malaria on Sunday.

Hundreds of family and friends gathered at the seafront in Ilfracombe on Thursday to release balloons in her memory.

Known as Belle to many who knew her, Christi had been on leave from Devon Youth Service to work for 10 months as a volunteer in Kenya for the Moving Mountains charity.

Tributes have poured in for the youth worker, volunteer and dance teacher, who was described as ‘inspirational’ by many.

Simon Cohen, team leader for Devon Youth Service, said she was a dedicated young person with a colossal sense of social justice:

“Youth Service staff had heard she had been unwell on Sunday but assumed it was nothing too serious,” he said.

“It came as an immense shock to everyone when we found out this beautiful, courageous, talented role model and inspiration to so many, with still so much to give, was taken from us by malaria.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Belle, her family, friends and those who worked with her at this extremely difficult time.

“Many of us seek solace in knowing that Belle packed so much in too so few years and made such a positive lasting impression on young people, family, friends and staff alike. A true inspiration who will be sorely missed.

“Family meant a great deal to Belle especially her mum Carol, so when the opportunity to take 10 months unpaid leave arose to work with Moving Mountains in Kenya, it was a chance she could not turn down despite, having massive reservations of missing family, friends and her work.”

She was passionate about dance, working and volunteering with the Rebecca Varley School of Dance in the town, helping to stage a number of shows at the Lantern Centre and Landmark.

There have been countless tributes on social media – on the Devon Youth Service Facebook group page, youth worker Sara Parkin wrote: ‘An inspiration to many. A daughter, a sister and a friend. Our thoughts and love are with Carol and family. So many of us will feel the loss but will be better people for having known her. Rest in happiness Belle, with all our love’.

Jess Runyard added: ‘I’m proud to have been able to call her my friend xxxxx’.

Koren Alanis Williams: ‘She was an inspiration to all who knew her, never afraid to follow her dreams! I’m so glad to have known her, she will be missed greatly. Thoughts are with everyone else who knew her and with her family Xx’.


  • Many thanks for your concern. Belle waa given the best treatment immediately and received the best care. However there are many forms of malaria and unfortunately this was extremely severe.

    Report this comment

    Carol Kelly

    Sunday, May 25, 2014

  • I don't know what advice youth workers are given when carrying out their work, but I can speak for my experience when working on a contract in Nigeria. We were told that if we have even the slightest signs of being unwell, particularly flu like symptoms we had to immediately go to the medical centre and have a blood test to test for signs of malaria. I did this once, waited 30 minutes for the result and fortunately was given the all clear, also, we were given an emergency 24 hour supply of tablets to take if we were unable to get to the clinic quickly. The idea of this is that if malaria is detected early there is a good chance of successful treatment. The fact that she was unwell and this was known by the local staff who took it on themselves to do nothing seems rather strange, maybe the family should be consulting lawyers over this tragedy!

    Report this comment


    Sunday, May 25, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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