Retired school principal turns author after inspiring teaching experience in East Africa

Charlie Graham in Addis Ababa
Charlie Graham with some of the young adults he taught in Addis Ababa.

A retired primary school headteacher has found a new lease of life after answering a call for help from Ethiopia and visiting Kenya

Following a 35 year teaching career, Charlie Graham retired as principal of Bridge Primary School in Banbridge. But the subsequent “sense of loss and loneliness” led to him answering an advertisement for a headteacher in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

’s time in Africa led him to write a children’s book which married the feelings he was experiencing with some of the animals he saw while on the continent.

While he felt he didn’t want to become a headteacher again, the Londoner who has spent much of his life in Northern Ireland felt like he could make a contribution and help out at the school. He taught young adults who had either Aids or leprosy and describes it as the “most rewarding teaching” he’s ever done.

During his time in East Africa, he also taught and advised in the Kenyan city of Nakuru where his board and keep was the only payment he received.

Now, back in Annalong, Northern Ireland, where he lives with his wife, Charlie has turned his hand to writing after being inspired by seeing wild giraffes in southern Ethiopia.  

Discussing his children’s book ‘The Giraffe With The Chocolate Bellybutton’, Charlie says he wanted to give the main character in his story an unusual name and made him an orphan.

Giraffe with the Chocolate Bellybutton

When he launched the book at his old school, he asked the children if they ever felt lonely or alone or lost or in need of friends or in need of help, and many put their hands up.

The book touches on bullying but focuses more in inclusivity and friendship as the giraffe in the story gets help and assistance from an unlikely source.

Charlie has said that the people he stayed with in Addis want him to return with 40 books and he is planning to visit this autumn.

Leave a Reply