A group of Lisburn ladies has raised nearly £150,000 from Christian Aid lunches over 40 years after a woman read a story in the Belfast Telegraph seeking help for the poor and needy in the developing world.
Next Tuesday, they will be holding another special lunch to celebrate their four decades of fund-raising.
The lunches have taken place every Tuesday from October to May since the first one in 1981, and they continued each year apart from a break due to the pandemic.
Hazel McCall, one of the founder members, said she had “read a very moving and challenging report from a then Belfast Telegraph feature writer Alf McCreary after one of his visits to the Third World, and I decided to something to help back home”.
With the help of three other founder members — Helen Lynn, Maureen Staniland and Annie Wittington — who died some time ago, the first Christian Aid lunch took place in the Church Hall of First Lisburn Presbyterian Church, and continued over the decades.
Hazel said: “We served bread and cheese with soup, and coffee or tea, and the first lunches cost 75 pence. The current cost is £4.50, so it shows how prices have risen since then.
“Over the years we attracted a wide range of volunteers and supporters from different denominations and also people with no church background at all. It was very much a team effort and we were also inspired by overseas partners from Christian Aid projects.
“They came to our lunches in Lisburn to see how we raised the money, and they also told us about their own experiences in their home countries.
“I remember one beautiful young woman from Afghanistan who worked there as a women’s rights campaigner but we later lost touch. I have been thinking a lot about her recently during and after the upheaval in her country and I keep worrying about her and hoping that she is safe.”
Hazel and Maureen will be at Tuesday’s lunch.
“We can only accommodate up to 60 people because of Covid regulations, and we are already fully booked although I am sure many others would like to be able to come.
“Since 1981 we have raised over £147,000, and hopefully we will add to this total on Tuesday. We plan to hold a final lunch during Christian Aid Week next year, if the regulations permit us to do so, and maybe we will raise the £150,000 eventually.
“We have been so glad that we have been able to raise so much for so many people in need,”
Hazel was a member of the Presbyterian Church’s World Development committee for 11 years, during which she was Convenor for five years.
Each year the church raises many thousands of pounds from church members to help fund projects in the developing world.