Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Tragedy spurs wife's campaign

Diane Florence with Castlereagh mayor Councillor David Drysdale, MLA Jimmy Spratt and staff at her chip shop. Missing from photo is Councillor Tommy Sandford

An east Belfast woman, whose husband died suddenly just 11 weeks ago, has raised over £3000 in his memory.

Diane Florence has amazed the community with her fundraising efforts for husband Neil's favourite charity in the short time since he died.

Neil suffered a fatal heart attack behind the wheel of his car, crashing into a shop on Woodstock Road, just weeks after the couple had joined the business community of the area.

Mrs Florence says fundraising has kept her going. She has so far raised an astonishing £3,100 of the £3,600 she needs to build a well for people in Uganda through the charity Fields of Life.

On Saturday she welcomed mayor of Castlereagh Councillor David Drysdale, MLA Jimmy Spratt and Councillor Tommy Sandford to a ballot at their business, Smyths Traditional Fish and Chip Shop, which raised a further £412 for the cause.

"Whenever Neil died I just felt that any money raised would be for Fields of Life," explained Diane.

Her minister suggested fundraising to build a well in his memory. "I thought that would just be wonderful as it would be life-giving to so many children and their families and I know that's what Neil would have wanted. I just feel that through it he'll live on," she explained.

"It's something that my church has been involved in and I've actually sponsored a child through this for probably about 10 years.

"My husband always talked about how sometime he would like to go out there and build houses or do something on a practical level.

"It's difficult, it's only 11 weeks tomorrow, but doing the well gives me a purpose and it gives me a reason to keep going."

She explained the charity took its name from the notorious killing fields – "they turned fields around and built schools to educate children."

The local community has been quick to rally round the newcomer in its midst.

"Local shops around donated prizes, we sold ballots and the mayor came and did the draw. There was 14 prizes overall and we raised £412 in the end. This has kept me going, that and the shop.

"It would be lovely to go out and actually see the well in Uganda. I spoke with Fields of Life and they said they could organise that I could go out and officially open the well, which might be something really nice to hold on to."

She added: "I would like thanks given to everybody in the community, the other shop owners and everybody who bought the ballots and supported the cause.

"Their words of encouragement have been fantastic. More than anything, I just want to thank them for their support which has been absolutely invaluable.

"We hadn't been in the shop that terribly long and it's just like we had been part of the community forever, it's been wonderful."

Castlereagh Councillor Tommy Sandford, who attended the ballot on Saturday with Diane and her staff, said: "Diane is doing a great job after losing her husband. Over the last 10 weeks she's collected over £3,000. It's a very worthwhile cause."

MLA Jimmy Spratt praised Diane for her efforts for one of the charities he also supports.

"I know this charity does excellent and vital work in Uganda. The money raised will build a well which will provide fresh drinking water for 1,000 people. This will be life-changing for so many people.

"I would especially like to thank Diane who raised this much-needed money at a time of personal loss and grief and I would commend her for thinking of others in the midst of losing her husband.

"On behalf of Fields of Life, I offer my sincere thanks to Diane."

If you would like to help Diane reach her target and build a well in Uganda, you can contact Fields of Life and donate on behalf of her late husband Neil Florence on 028 3839 0395 or email info @fieldsoflife.org

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