Coleraine team walks round Lough Neagh in support of Thai orphanage

Tuesday September 2nd 2008

Children at the Mercy Centre in Pattaya. The Lough Neagh walk is aimed at keeping the centre open.A team from St Patrick’s Parish, Coleraine, will walk around Lough Neagh this month to raise money for an orphanage in Thailand.

The four-day walk is in support of the work of Mercy Centre in Pattaya, a city considered to be the heart of Thailand’s sex industry. It is a city well known to the parish as members have travelled east for the annual Pattaya Praise Festival for a number of years.

Jonny Campbell-Smyth, Ian Hannah and Ian McMaster form the core group in the hike which will follow an anti-clockwise route around the shores of the lough, beginning in Portadown on Thursday September 11 and finishing back in Portadown on Sunday September 14.

They hope others will join them en route.

The money they raise will help ensure that the Mercy Centre Childrens’ Home ( in Pattaya, which permanently houses more than 20 children at any time, can continue to be there to support the children in their care.

Jonny Campbell-Smyth, one of the Lough Neagh walkers, in Thailand for Pattaya Praise.The ministry was established by Fred and Dianne Doell in 2000 but now the Mercy Centre property lease is at risk of being handed back to its owners for future commercial development. Jonny said an opportunity has arisen to purchase the property at a cost of 15 million BAHT (£230,000). “Without this purchase the Mercy Centre children are at risk of losing the vital life-line that so many children in Pattaya need,” he said.

The Mercy Centre offers a refuge to the ‘street children’ of Pattaya. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children and young people live most of their young lives at risk as a result of direct abuse, severe neglect, or the danger of being swallowed up in the life threatening environment of crime, drugs and sexual abuse that surrounds them on a daily basis.

The walkers plan to leave Portadown on the 11th, Toome on the 12th, and Glenavy on the 13th for the final leg which will take them back to Portadown.

They are appealing for support from parishes across Connor, and details of how to sponsor the walkers, as well as a poster and other information, are available from the walk website at


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