A concert to take place in Coleraine Baptist Church later next Saturday evening will raise money and awareness for a charity that helps thousands of children in Guatemala.
Ballymoney couple Scott and Shirley Ballantine are behind the event, which will highlight the plight of the children of the South American country, and the vital work carried out by the ‘Adopt a Child’ charity.
Scott Ballantine, the charity’s Area Coordinator for Ireland, spoke to The Times this week.
Scott’s job involves speaking to church and community groups across the Province in a bid to highlight the vital work of the charity, and to encourage people to offer financial support, especially through the charity’s evangelical Child Sponsorship Programme.
Adopt-A-Child (ACC) is a Christian Sponsorship programme working hand in hand with sponsors across the world to provide food, medical and dental care, pastoral and practical care, a spiritual hope and a future for thousands of under-privileged children in Guatemala and Albania.
Although part of a world-wide network, AAC in the UK and Ireland is a Scottish Charity.
“The work that we carry out in Guatemala is vital,” explained Scott. “Through our feeding programmes we provide valuable supplementary food to children which not only provides nourishment for the child but also takes the pressure of the child’s family as they seek to feed their children in what is often pretty dire poverty.”
There are 9 programmes across the country - four of these programmes are in the mountain region of Quiche.
“These 4 programmes reach out to around 5,000 children. The children of the developing parts of this country basically rely on these programmes to be nourished, as Guatemala has the third highest malnutrition rate in the world. To put it into perspective, the charity provides around 1.2 million meals per year.”
Programmes run by ‘Adopt-A-Child’ take place twice a week, and also include bible and discipleship classes for those involved.
Scott went on: “Children can easily find themselves involved in drugs, in gangs and in crime - we reach out to them and try and guide them and keep them beyond the reach of the drug gangs,” explained Scott.
Scott, who is a father himself, described the situation in the Central American country as ‘heartbreaking’. “I have a real passion to help these children,” he said. “I just believe that the Lord laid it on my heart to do my bit”.
It was in the wake of the Guatemalan Revolution and its bloodbath of the early 1980’s that an American couple founded the Adopt-A-Child sponsorship programme to bring Christian help and hope to the destitute mountain children.
Scott and his wife have made several trips to the country, and have met up with children that they sponsor and their families. However Scott tells that not all children attending the programmes are sponsored: “By signing up to sponsoring a child, you are not just helping one child, you are helping a family and a community, despite the fact that about 4000 children registered on the programme do not yet have sponsors. We never turn any child away, the unsponsored children get fed and receive any necessary medical and dental treatment, just as if they were sponsored. This puts the charity under great financial stress as they try to meet the needs of every child. So there is a great need for many more sponsors. These children are often living in terrible conditions, and every day new children are coming to the programmes to be cared for.”
The concert, to take place next Saturday, February 20th, will feature ‘Live Issue’, a five piece band that have been named by New Christian Music as ‘artist of the year’ on four consecutive years in the country gospel category, and Laura Dowey, another well-known and talented singer, who has recently released her first album.
Speaking about the concert, Scott went on: “Money raised from the concert will go towards replacing a 4x4 vehicle that is used to take food and our bible teachers up to the mountain feeding programmes in Quiche. The terrain is very rough, and during the rainy season, roads really turn into rivers.
“This new vehicle is urgently required and is vital to carry the food up to the programmes, and the one currently used is really on its last legs.”
He went on: “We are really delighted to have these two acts on board for the concert. Tickets are not required but we are suggesting a minimum donation of £10 per person at the door on the night, to cover costs, and raise as much as we can for the 4x4. Light refreshments will be served on the night. The concert will begin at 7.30pm, doors open at 6.45pm.”
Scott paid tribute to Wilson McIntyre, the charity’s Causeway Coast Local Rep for his continued support, and his help in promoting the concert.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
If you want further information on the concert, on how to make a donation, or on how to sponsor a child, you can contact Scott on 028-29540770 or 07552-788120. He can be emailed on firstname.lastname@example.org