Ricky gets creative for Tanzania fundraiser

Local artist Ricky Darling puts the finishing touches to one of his colourful paintings. INNT 20-004-FP Pic by Freddie Parkinson
Local artist Ricky Darling puts the finishing touches to one of his colourful paintings. INNT 20-004-FP Pic by Freddie Parkinson
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A JORDANSTOWN man who took up painting after being forced to retire from work due to ill health will hold an exhibition and sale of his work next week to raise funds for a housing project in an impoverished area of Tanzania.

In 2010, Ricky Darling was forced to quit his job as a leisure centre manager after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, but since then he has discovered a love of painting. Originally he painted landscapes, but inspired by his experiences with the Homes for Hombolo project in east Africa and the work of the late Catalan artist Joan Miró he now creates “colourful and surrealistic” works using acrylics, each telling their own story.

Homes for Hombolo - a self-funded project linked with The Leprosy Mission Northern Ireland - builds homes for families in Samaria - a leper colony in a remote part of Tanzania.

The charitable organisation has already built 14 houses in the area, but volunteers are hoping to raise enough funds to build more houses over the next few years.

Although the people who live in the settlement just outside the village of Hombolo have been cured of leprosy, many have been left blind or have lost limbs and they are still shunned by wider society due to the fear and superstition surrounding the disease.

Ricky, who got involved with Homes for Hombolo after hearing about the initiative from a friend at St Patrick’s Church in Jordanstown, travelled to Samaria two years ago to help build houses. And he’s hoping that he’ll be fit enough to go back to Tanzania this October.

The 56-year-old father-of-two explained that one of the main aims of the project is to help tackle the stigma associated with leprosy.

“By being there we actually help to change people’s views about leprosy,” he told the Times. “The stigma is a big problem, and because of that stigma these people are not welcome and they are discriminated against.”

He continued: “The difference between my illness and their illness is that I get looked after. My illness will get worse and I might shake a bit and have to sleep, but that’s ok. What these people have to live in is a hole in the ground. If they have houses they are made out of mud, and if you have no hands, how are you supposed to build or fix anything?”

Ricky’s exhibition will run at DW Framing and The Village Gallery, Shore Road from May 21 - 26.

The exhibition will be open from 9.30am - 5pm each day, with late opening until 9pm on Tuesday, May 22.

More than 30 paintings will be on sale throughout the week priced from £125 to £400. All proceeds will go to the Homes for Hombolo project.

Read the full story in this week’s Times...