As assistant director of Northern Ireland charity Abaana Ministries, Lisburn Cathedral parishioner Neville Jones knows there are children in the world who will not have a happy Christmas.
More than 150 million in fact, according to UN figures – children living on the streets, who can only dream of waking up in a warm, safe bed on Christmas morning.
Neville left his health service job a year ago to take on the role of assistant director with Abaana, and on his first visit to Uganda he saw children on the streets whose only thought when they closed their eyes at night was whether they would live to the morning. And he witnessed first hand the work Abaana is doing through its sponsorship programme, offering children a home, an education, or both.
This Christmas Abaana will again run Challenge 48 – challenging people here in Northern Ireland to fundraise for children living in extreme poverty by either fasting for 24 to 48 hours or sleeping on the street for 24-48 hours. Or by raising money in any other way, there are ideas on the Abaana website.
Neville said it was hoped funds raised this year through Challenge 48 would rescue eight street children. It will also help support Abaana’s water and building projects.
Anyone taking part in the sleep-out will be sleeping in cardboard boxes at near the seafront in Bangor, Co Down. “We are trying to mirror exactly how children are living in Uganda,” Neville explained. “Participants cannot bring or buy food, they can only eat food which has been donated. They will also be lifting litter, again mirroring what the children in Uganda have to do to survive.”
Neville said a number of young people from Lisburn Cathedral and parishes in Connor had already signed up to support Challenge 48 in some way.
If you are interested in supporting Challenge 48 and changing the life of street children in Uganda, please visit the website. The charity has produced a video which shows the life children living on the street live day in and day out, and the life they can lead when they are supported byAbaana. If you would like Neville to do a presentation on the work of Abaana Ministries, please contact Neville@abaana.org
You will be able to read more about Neville and the work of Abaana in the February 2015 issue of the diocesan magazine Connor Connections.