Ilfracombe bids farewell to ‘inspirational’ young woman

Police had to close some roads and divert traffic as hundreds gathered at Ilfracombe Christian Fello

Police had to close some roads and divert traffic as hundreds gathered at Ilfracombe Christian Fellowship Church for the service to celebrate youth worker Christi Kelly's life on Thursday. - Credit: Archant

More than 300 people attend a service to celebrate the life of 21-year-old youth worker Christi Kelly.

Christi Kelly pictured with children in Kenya.

Christi Kelly pictured with children in Kenya. - Credit: Archant

HUNDREDS turned out in Ilfracombe this morning (Thursday) for the memorial service to celebrate the life of 21-year-old youth worker Christi Kelly.

Mourners spilled out on to the High Street as more than 300 people gathered for the memorial service

Mourners spilled out on to the High Street as more than 300 people gathered for the memorial service to celebrate youth worker Christi Kelly's life on Thursday. - Credit: Archant

Police had to close some roads and put diversions in place around the Christian Fellowship Church in the High Street where the service was held, while many of the 300-plus in attendance listened from the pavement.

Mourners spilled out on to the High Street as more than 300 people gathered for the memorial service

Mourners spilled out on to the High Street as more than 300 people gathered for the memorial service to celebrate youth worker Christi Kelly's life on Thursday. - Credit: Archant

Christi, known as Belle to many of her friends and colleagues, died of malaria on May 21 while working as a volunteer in Kenya at a school and children’s home for the Moving Mountains charity.

She was well known and hugely popular in Ilfracombe, as a youth worker with Devon Youth Service, a teacher and volunteer at Rebecca Varley School of Dance and through the church.


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The service was opened by Pastor Richard Caswell and followed with the hymn Rooftops plus tributes by youth worker Sara Parkin, Christi’s sister Rosie Taylor and Rebecca Varley.

A poem was read by Janine Schiller and pastor Justine Caswell also read a tribute before Richard Caswell read the closing message and the hymn Mighty to Save.

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Towards the end of the service one young woman was apparently overcome and had to be helped outside where she was given first aid while police called for an ambulance to attend.

In his address Mr Caswell praised the fun, bubbly and multi talented young woman who had made an impact wherever she went.

“I am sure that we all have some great memories of her,” he said.

“She would have loved this; she would have absolutely loved all the attention, that’s for sure.

“She was able to give an argument and defend others, and I found that quite tremendous.”

With a strong sense of social justice, when she was just 15 Christi and her friends organised a protest march through Ilfracombe to save local youth centre the Real McCaf from closure.

Later she spoke before thousands at a Choice Youth Rally opposite the Houses of Parliament, meeting the then Minister for Youth Tim Loughton MP.

She went on to become a senior member of the youth service and then an adult volunteer, helping to set up programmes across the area.

Last year she went on a 10 week course in Borneo with Raleigh International and in January the opportunity to work in Kenya came up.

“In her life she was an inspiration and in her death we know she was doing something that she loved to do,” said Mr Caswell inn closing.

Afterwards, he said her inspiration had affected many people in Ilfracombe and most people in the town had known her. He said she had been an active member of the church and helped out with its toddler group and the younger children.

“She really stood for her faith, she was not ashamed of it,” he said.

“Within the 21 years of her life she really shared her life in so many different things, which I think is why so many people turned out today.”

The church will be open tomorrow (Friday) between 8.30am and 8pm for people to go along and write their tributes and memories of Christi.

* Her family have set up ‘Belle’s Memorial Fund’ at the mydonate website, with donations going to support the Kenyan community she had lived and worked with since January.

Donations may be made via https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/christibellekellymemorial.

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