Lisburn charity shop changing lives in India

Harry Latimer, Chief Operating Officer of Blythswood Ireland, with Pastor Emmanuel and Annie Milton from the Siloam Youth and Childrens Aid Mission in Chennai.
Harry Latimer, Chief Operating Officer of Blythswood Ireland, with Pastor Emmanuel and Annie Milton from the Siloam Youth and Childrens Aid Mission in Chennai.

Unwanted furniture, clothes, books, jewellery and bric-a-brac donated by householders in Lisburn is transforming lives thousands of miles away in India.

Cash paid for items donated to the Blythswood shop at Saintfield Road is supporting Siloam Youth and Children’s Aid Mission (SYCAM) in providing residential care and education for vulnerable children and young people in Chennai, the largest city in Southern India, and enabling children from low-income families in the locality to attend the Carmel Christian School.

This week Pastors Emmanuel and Annie Milton, who direct the work of SYCAM in their home city of Chennai, were in Northern Ireland to thank Blythswood and its supporters for 12 years of support and report on the positive impact local people’s donations are having on young lives.

Rev Emmanuel Milton said: “When we founded SYCAM in 1976 our vision was to support the poorest of the poor through God’s love and kindness and, since then, we have been privileged to act as stand-in parents to children who have been forsaken by society and their own families. Our mission is to encourage, educate and empower them – and we can only do that with the active support of organisations such as Blythswood Care. The people who donate their unwanted ‘clutter’, do a little shopping or volunteer to work at any of the eight Blythswood charity shops across Northern Ireland can little imagine how much good they are doing for vulnerable, often destitute, children in a far off country.”

The wellbeing of India’s children has not kept pace with the country’s recent economic development. According to UNICEF, half of all Indian children are undernourished; six out of every hundred babies die before their first birthday and half of all children do not complete a basic eight years of schooling.

Harry Latimer, Chief Operating Officer, Blythswood Ireland, says: “In India children whose families live in poverty are particularly badly affected. Poverty forces some mothers into prostitution, leaving their children to fend for themselves, and often it’s those babies and young children who are brought to SYCAM for help. Pastors Emmanuel and Annie Milton and their dedicated team provide nutrition, medical care and support with development and early years education - the childhood essentials which most of us in the West take for granted.

“For 50 years Blythswood Care has been transforming lives through Christian care for body and soul and we are proud to support a range of initiatives which reflect that ethos, in Chennai and in locations in Eastern Europe and Africa. We also provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief in response to global emergencies.

“The sheer scale of need often seems overwhelming but, as Pastors Emmanuel and Annie Milton have shown us during their visit, we can set positive change in motion through simple acts. On behalf of all those who volunteer, donate or shop at our shops in Northern Ireland or who support this longstanding charity in countless ways, I extend a sincere thank you - from Blythswood and from the children whose lives you are transforming.”