A group of enterprising Christians in South Lanarkshire are going the distance — 112 miles to be precise — for an African charity, as they seek to raise funds to help orphaned and chronically sick children.
The Chilli Children project, founded by Christian missionary Pat Gilmer, is based in Uganda and supports orphaned, disabled and chronically sick children and their families.
It is called Chilli Children, because the charity teaches families and carers to grow chillies and then take them to the market to raise money to support themselves.
Families registered with the project are given chilli saplings free of charge, trained in how to look after them, and supported during growing and harvest. After the crops have been sold, they are paid what they are due immediately.
Over the past few years members and friends from the recently formed Hope Church Blackwood and Kirkmuirhill congregation have undertaken a pioneering fundraising scheme, by doing a sponsored run or walk each day in February. The group hopes that other Christians across Scotland might be persuaded to take up the challenge.
Jacky Ralston, from Hope Church Blackwood and Kirkmuirhill, explained: ‘We first got involved when one of the founders retired from the mission field and settled in our village. After hearing about it we really wanted to help.
‘Subsequently our minister, Rev. Ian Watson, travelled to Uganda to spend a couple of weeks working with them and, when he returned, he advised us that they had a real need for an ambulance to help fetch and carry the children.
‘This would need to be a four-wheel-drive vehicle, due to the conditions of the roads’.
Jacky said that, being ‘a bit of a runner, I had the idea of doing something to try and raise some money towards the cost of the vehicle, which was approximately £35,000. I decided that I would run four miles every day for the month of February and I asked a few other runners in the congregation to take part, and every one of them said yes without hesitation’.
The team called themselves the Chilli Runners, not just because they were running for the Chilli Children Project, but also because their chosen month of fundraising — February — could end up rather chilly!
The first event raised £1000. The next year, it was opened up to walkers, with 50 people taking part and raising more than £10,000. In 2015, the team raised enough to buy the ambulance, which should be delivered early in 2016.
According to Jacky: ‘We plan to continue with the event, which has become an annual one within our congregation and community for the ongoing work of the project and the upkeep of the ambulance.
‘We truly thank God for the way he has blessed us in this work and continues to do so. The fellowship between runners and walkers throughout the month is very special, with encouragement and advice being shared. We always have a Bible verse for the month, which we keep at the forefront of our minds each day’