FORMER Northern Ireland international footballer and hero of the 1982 World Cup Finals Gerry Armstrong paid a visit to New Mossley Presbyterian Church this week to help with fundraising efforts for the church’s Uganda Mission.
The television pundit, who scored an unforgettable goal against hosts Spain in the World Cup Finals to send Northern Ireland through to the second round of the competition, donated a signed football shirt to the church’s fundraising campaign.
The church is holding a fundraising fashion show on May 11 and Armstrong’s shirt, along with lots of other sporting memorabilia, will be auctioned off on internet site Ebay.
Reverend Ian McDonald and his New Mossley congregation have been involved with projects in the east African country for the past 10 years.
Ian travelled out originally in 2002 with alcohol and drug education volunteers to work with kids abusing substances on the streets.
Since then the church has supported the purchase of land and the building of a school and dormitory in Jagala, which is an hour away from the capital, Kampala.
Teams from the church have travelled to the country over the past decade to help with the building of the ‘Jesus Cares for All’ centre which now caters for 45 children who have been orphaned either through poverty or the HIV AIDS epidemic. The centre relies entirely on charitable donations to keep it going.
Ian said: “The centre is now providing a decent level of care and education to anyone in the area that wants to come, and aims to teach them a trade so that when they reach adulthood they can earn a living and support themselves.
“The transformation of the children has been phenomenal since we started going out - the country still has its needs and there are teams travelling out all the time to provide help and support.”
The group also has an “open invitation” from the Ugandan Government to support a re-settlement centre for children living on the street.
Ian went on: “Most of those children have been abused in some form or another - it is a really spartan place. The hospital it has is a small hovel of a place and we have been able to provide supplies such as beds, clothes and medical equipment.
“It can be difficult and for me the hardest time was when children entered the Jesus Cares For All centre for the first time and some of the kids asked if I could be their dad and that broke my heart.
“You realise that there is only so much you can do, but all you do is so much appreciated and it is so worth doing.
“People may question is it wise to use the expense of going rather than just donating all the money but I think it is far more valuable to the children to get that personal contact and spend time with them.
“We play games with the children, just silly simple games, to spend time with them and seeing the transformation is amazing - they have so little experience of human contact.”
Ian will be travelling out to Uganda for the eighth time and the 14-strong group this year is made up of young people from around New Mossley.
“This year is very different to previous years,” Ian continued.
“We are heading out with a group of young people from the around the New Mossley estate.
“It will be a real challenge for them because they will be coming from their own backgrounds of social depravation and high unemployment while others have never left Northern Ireland before and they will see children who literally do not know, from one day to the next, where their food is coming from.
“It will also be very tough for them. For the entire two weeks they will be working hard in the schools and doing church programmes.
“It is a very exhaustive programme and in no way a holiday.
“We believe it will be a great benefit to the young people from New Mossley and it will give them the opportunity to see what direction their own life is going in - it will be life changing.”
The fashion show to raise money for the mission will be held at the church on Friday, May 11 at 7.30pm.
The sporting memorabilia exhibition is expected to be launched on Ebay within the coming days.
To donate to the cause, contact Rev Ian McDonald at New Mossley Presbyterian Church.
Recently members of the church performed ‘Joseph’ at Theatre at The Mill and raised over £5,500 for the mission. Check out the pictures from the show on page 19.