Veteran fundraiser (95) takes part in Christian Aid Week, 66 years after he first got involved in May of 1957
Andy Murray participated in the first Christian Aid Week in May 1957 and served as the charity’s representative at Townsend Street Presbyterian Church in Belfast’s lower Shankill until it closed in September 2022.
Over 66 years, Andy has raised tens of thousands of pounds to help people living in poverty and crisis overseas, supported by his late wife Edna and their daughter Heather.
He held church collections as well as events such as lunches after Sunday services and sponsored walks, assisted by members of the congregation. Until the pandemic, he also organised house-to-house collections in the vicinity of the church and in the streets close to his Ballygomartin home.
He still retains a passion for the charity’s work, and to mark his birthday he lent a hand with the house-to-house collection organised by St John’s (Newtownbreda) Presbyterian Church, delivering Christian Aid Week envelopes to a number of addresses using a rollator for support.
Andy explained the reason he supports Christian Aid is because “we’re so lucky in this country”.
He attributes his long years of service as a fundraiser to cycling in his younger days.
“There were no cars in the old days, so I used to cycle up to visit my granny in Ballymena. That gave me a love of cycling, so I cycled everywhere, even up to Portrush,” he recalled.
He joked: “I was born above a barber’s shop in Ballymena and that’s why I have some hair left. I still have all my own teeth too.”
Christian Aid Ireland chief executive Rosamond Bennett paid tribute to Andy.
She said: “We’ve all heard of Andy Murray, the tennis champion. But for almost 70 years this Andy Murray has been a champion within his church and community for people living in poverty and crisis overseas.
“During those years he and his late wife Edna were a mixed doubles pair, netting tens of thousands to support our work. Together, their fundraising has saved lives and changed countless lives for the better.
“We’re also grateful to Andy and Edna’s daughter Heather, who is a generous supporter of our work. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Andy’s fundraising has supported farmers like Esther Saizi, a 54-year-old widowed grandmother in southern Malawi, whose story is the focus of this year’s Christian Aid Week appeal. Since joining a Christian Aid-funded farming co-operative Esther has managed to fetch a higher price for her crop of pigeon peas and is better able to support her family.
The pigeon pea is an essential part of the diet of millions of people around the world, particularly in Indian cuisine where it’s known as toor dhal. Malawi is Africa’s largest producer of the pulse.
Esther had been growing pigeon peas for eight years before joining the co-operative, but she’d never been able to secure a fair price. Exploitative middlemen target isolated farmers like her to gain a sale at very low prices. But when Esther started selling as part of the co-operative, she was connected to better buyers and was able to fetch more. She is one of over 3,300 farmers helped by Christian Aid’s partner the Nandolo Farmers’ Association, which runs the co-operative.
Another benefit of Esther’s membership of the co-operative is that she is able to store her pigeon peas in a communal warehouse, safe from the storms and floods that affect this climate-vulnerable country.
Esther, who is now a chairperson of the cooperative, said: “Before I joined the programme I grew pigeon peas, but I wasn’t aware that I could make some reasonable money out of it.”
With the profits from her pigeon pea crop, Esther began buying goats and today her herd has grown to 13. The goats provide milk and meat to support her family as well as manure for her crops, which saves on expensive fertiliser. Esther even used her income to buy a sewing machine and now she makes clothes for her family.
Pigeon peas are hardy, so they thrive in drought-prone southern Malawi. They’re cheap to grow from recycled seed and require only minimal amounts of fertiliser and pesticides, making them an ideal crop to grow in a region where over 60% of families live in poverty. And because pigeon peas fix nitrogen, they improve soil fertility, therefore boosting the yield of other crops.
Besides earning a better price, Esther is also adding value to her pigeon peas by grinding them into flour and baking bread rolls, which she sells to earn some extra money.
Recently, Christian Aid provided a machine to process fish food from a blend of pigeon peas and soya, and this busy grandmother plans to start a fish farm, growing fish in small ponds and selling them to earn an additional income.
Esther isn’t the only businesswoman in her family. Her daughter Ziwone (25) and son-in-law Peter (28) are carpenters, and with her pigeon pea income Esther has bought tools to enable their business to thrive. Esther is also paying for her grandson Nespo (4) to attend nursery school and hopes that she’ll be able to help his baby brother Emmanuel (4 months) go to school too.
Esther’s younger daughter Rashida (17) lives away from home to be near her school. The pigeon pea income is supporting Rashida’s education by covering the cost of her lodgings, a part-time tutor, examination fees and school uniforms. Rashida dreams of graduating from college and becoming a nurse.
By giving this Christian Aid Week, you can help more farmers like Esther secure a fair price for their crops and make their children’s dreams come true.
For more information and to donate, please visit caweek.ie/Donate or call 028 9064 8133 to make a telephone donation.