Banbridge man hangs up sandbag to raise awareness of hunger crisis

A new festive tradition began in Banbridge when local man Leslie White hung a sandbag on his mantlepiece instead of a Christmas stocking, to raise awareness of the hunger crisis in flood-hit South Sudan.

Banbridge man Leslie White holds up his Christmas sandbag stocking to raise awareness of the hunger crisis in flood-hit South Sudan

Normally deployed in flood prevention, the sandbag is being used as a reminder that extreme weather exacerbated by climate change is a powerful driver of poverty and hunger, especially in flood-prone countries such as South Sudan.

In October, South Sudan saw its worst flooding in nearly 60 years, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to abandon their homes. Unusually heavy rainfall in recent months caused the Nile to burst its banks, leaving huge swathes of rich farmland under water. As well as destroying homes, the flooding killed livestock and destroyed crops, worsening a food crisis which has left 2.4 million people at risk of falling into famine.

Leslie is a retired civil engineer and member of Bannside Presbyterian Church. As the Banbridge Christian Aid organiser, he coordinates the fundraising efforts of the local churches which in recent years have yielded £168,000 for the charity. And besides his fundraising in Banbridge, Leslie has also given his spare time to volunteer weekly in Christian Aid’s Belfast office, carrying out administrative work.

Christian Aid is working through local partners to respond to the hunger and flooding crisis in South Sudan. The charity is providing emergency life-saving support including blankets, mosquito nets, water purification tablets and cash to flood-affected families as well as cash, seeds, farming tools and fishing kits to families struggling to get enough food to eat.

Christian Aid Ireland Chief Executive Rosamond Bennett, herself a native of Banbridge, thanked Leslie and all the people of Bannside Presbyterian Church and the wider Banbridge area who support the charity’s work to relieve poverty in South Sudan and around the world:

“For many years, Leslie has stood in solidarity with people living in desperate situations. This year, his ‘sandbag stocking’ is helping to raise awareness of the impact that flooding is having on an already terrible hunger crisis in South Sudan.”

To support Christian Aid’s Christmas appeal, visit caid.ie/Christmas or call 028 9064 8133 to make a telephone donation.