All we want for Christmas is a gift that can help nourish our children

JR Mc Laughlin, Christy Hennessy, Richard Moore (Director of Children in Crossfire), and Gerry McCarthy in Kenya.
JR Mc Laughlin, Christy Hennessy, Richard Moore (Director of Children in Crossfire), and Gerry McCarthy in Kenya.

On August 30th, 1971 Pat and Berna Mc Laughlin left their flat in Foyle Street and flew with their 8 week-old son John Ryan, onto the melting tarmac of Lusaka Airport in Zambia.

Pat McLaughlin had taken a three year contract as a teacher in Kamenza Primary in the copper mining town of Chililabombwe.

JR visiting neighbours in Zambia 1971.

JR visiting neighbours in Zambia 1971.

As well as the excitement of the challenge ahead, the family felt assured the Troubles they had left behind would be over upon their return.

For John Ryan (JR Mc Laughlin ) returning to Africa was a certainty, and after completing his degree in Fine Art in London he went to Mozambique as a solidarity worker in a school for street children.

The injustice of the situation in Mozambique had a profound effect on JR.

“Very quickly my perspective changed.Like many I thought I had the answers, but began to realise the questions were wrong .

“The children I was working with, the communities I lived amongst, were being robbed of their basic human rights.

“It felt like this part of the world was on fire and no-one was doing anything to put out the flames.

“Statistics can often limit our understanding of the enormity of a situation; having one friend with HIV, one friend with malaria, changes your world, you are involved and want to make change.”

After his placement in Mozambique JR took a position as a teacher in Norway preparing international volunteers to work in development projects around the world.

During this time he travelled extensively through Asia and Latin America.

As well as creating a special action team to travel to emergency situations JR spent two years bringing groups of students to India by bus.

The philosophy of the bus trips was that the world was our classroom and its people our teachers; the student created positive news about developing countries and humanitarian organisations .

“As we drove through the Baluchistan desert from Iran into Pakistan, it felt that the world was changing. It was 1996; Mandela was visiting Brixton, and Israel had freed hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

“On reflection it may have been that the world hadn’t changed yet; this was before 911, when the world was more one.”

After five years as a teacher in Norway JR returned home to Derry and began volunteering for Children in Crossfire.

“ I knew it would be worth investing my time volunteering for Children in Crossfire.

“It was a really effective and well governed organisation with a good mission and advanced objectives .”

After 12 years of working in Children in Crossfire JR says he is increasingly enthused about the charity’s work and positive impact it is having on the lives of some of the most vulnerable communities in the world.

“Our world food systems are broken, we have to re-learn many of the things we presume, whilst finding sustainable solutions to the situation faced by hundreds of thousands of children every day.”

JR said the Children in Crossfire 2013 Advent Campaign success will have huge significance to the futures of people living in The South West Shoa region of Ethiopia.

“The NOURISH Programme has proved incredibly effective in the last two years.

“We have reached the three year target in the first two years of the programme.

“Hospital admissions are down 18% and child mortality has been lowered by 29%.

“The NOURISH Programme’s success is something to share with the people of the North West, something supporters here should be proud of.

“What happens during the early years is of crucial importance for every child’s development.

“Good nutrition helps children to do better at school, be healthier, have higher earnings and participate more in society.

“By supporting the NOURISH Programme we can create sustainable solutions for thousands of children and their families this Christmas.”

One of the ways you can help the vital work of the NOURISH Programme is by buying a Children in Crossfire Ethical Gift.

There is still a few days left before Christmas to buy one of these gifts and help make a difference to a child’s chances of having a better life.

The beautiful illustrations for this year’s Ethical Gifts, based on the Three Kings, have been designed by Derry artist Trisha Deery, who has herself volunteered with the charity in Tanzania.

Each of the gifts represents a key element of the budget for the NOURISH project.

The gifts range from £8 to provide lots of porridge; £19 for a family food boost kit; £45 will buy a bike for Food Extension Workers to travel to more remote villages to conduct home visits; £97 to pay for Feeding Centre treatment; £370 for medical supplies; and £3,347 for construction of a well (hand dug) in a rural village.

Water borne diseases are one of the most common illnesses found on the admission of children within the Nourish Programme.

Your present will dramatically help Children in Crossfire reach its target of a 2.5% reduction in child mortality in three districts of South West Shoa Zone, Ethiopia.

There is also the option to donate monthly, or as a one-off payment. For example, £8 would pay for a month’s supply of high nutrition supplem ents for one child, while £19 would provide a family with a month’s supply of seeds, grains and plants to grow and cook nutritional meals.

You can purchase one of the Ethical Gifts by contacting Children in Crossfire at its office in Joseph Street, Derry; telephone 02871 269898; or complete your transaction online by visiting

The charity will send out your chosen Gift Card to give to whoever you choose and your donation will go to the NOURISH Programme.

Details of the Children in Crossfire projects in Africa are on the website, including a video of the story of little Elias, aged one, and how his life has been transformed.

The website also provides helpful advice on how to get your business or school involved in the charity’s work.