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’.