Retired consultant John Philip has been awarded the Rotary Club’s ‘International Man of the Year’ title for his inspirational work in Tanzania.

Mr Philip, 71, of Fixby, took early retirement in 2004 and for the last eight years has devoted much of his time to helping some of the poorest people in Africa.

Both Mr Philip and wife Chris, 69, are members of Mirfield Rotary Club. Over the years they have visited Tanzania about 14 times and recently returned from their latest visit.

Retired consultant John Philip (front), Rotary's International Man of the Year, experiences what it's like to carry water the traditional way.

Mr Philip, a former clinical director for Bradford Hospitals Trust, said the nomination for the national award – a first for the Rotary Club of Great Britain – came out of the blue.

“I was on my way to Tanzania and we were at Dubai airport when I turned my mobile phone on and got the message that I had been nominated,” he said.

“It is a very grand title and I am not sure I am deserving of that but I hope what I do can be inspirational to others,” he said.

When he retired he decided he wanted to “put something back” and embarked on a mission to help communities in Tanzania.

He started out in local hospitals which had terribly rundown facilities, helping them repair, renew and rebuild.

After that he looked at wider healthcare problems borne out of poverty. His project then turned to helping children and families and moved into schools.

Retired consultant John Philip, Rotary's International Man of the Year, treats a patient with peritonitis.

Over the years he has sent over 25,000 text books and given families solar powered lights in their homes.

“Children often have to walk a long way to school so we looked at the land around schools and decided to create an agricultural project,” said Mr Philip.

“We worked with the local farmers and gave them tools, fertilisers and seeds so they could grow food.

“When we went back the land around the school was cultivated and maize, vegetables, tomatoes and beans were being grown. This meant the school could provide breakfast.”

Mr Philip has also worked with the albino community – those born without pigment in their skin – as local witchdoctors, or traditional healers, believed that certain parts of their bodies had magical powers.

That meant albino children were kidnapped and mutilated but Mr Philip has worked to bring local communities together to help destroy the myth and encourage albino families back into mainstream society.

Retired consultant John Philip (left), Rotary's International Man of the Year, at a schools awards ceremony.

“We have been back to see the impact of this project and we had a presentation which was quite astonishing,” he said. “The traditional healers now say they will eject from their group anyone involved in an attack on albino children.”

Mr Philip said his work was so rewarding and he urged others to give their time to help.

“The people are so trusting and friendly,” he said. “The children will come up and hold your hand. I sometimes feel I have more friends over there than I do here.

“I would appeal to anyone thinking of retiring to join us. In this country once you retire it’s very difficult to continue your professional work but this way people can use their skills within the structure of the Rotary organisation.

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“There is a shortage of science teachers and midwives but all skills are valuable including electricians and plumbers. I took a consultant gynaecologist out there and he asked me not to tell anyone he was a doctor as he wanted to do some joinery!”

Volunteers travel at their own expense but “bed, breakfast, food and beer” can be as little as £12 a day.