Sandbag stockings for charity supporters

A new festive tradition began in Coleraine and Ballymoney this week when local women Dibbie McCaughan and Pauline Connor hung a sandbag on their mantlepiece instead of a Christmas 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.

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Dibbie, a retired teacher and member of Ballycastle Presbyterian Church, has for the last 17 years been the Christian Aid organiser in Ballycastle. In that role, she coordinates the fundraising efforts of the local churches which have so far yielded around £120,000 to tackle extreme poverty overseas.

Dibbie and her sandbag

Pauline, who is originally from Ballymoney, has been the Christian Aid representative at Terrace Row Presbyterian Church in Coleraine for the past ten years, coordinating the church’s fundraising efforts.

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 thanked Dibbie, Pauline and all who support the charity’s work to relieve poverty.

Pauline with her sandbag