Town charity is chosen to climb highest peak to mark the Jubilee

Richard Spratt, chief executive officer at Fields of Life.
Richard Spratt, chief executive officer at Fields of Life.

PORTADOWN-based charity Fields of Life will be one of four charities looking down on the rest of the UK in June as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, writes Richard Hampton.

Fields of Life, a cross-community charity which helps people in East Africa, will be leading the event from the summit of the Province’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard, on the evening of June 4.

Led by TV presenter Lynda Bryans, a group of volunteers from Fields of Life will light a beacon at the summit of Slieve Donard at 10.25pm, while three other charities will simultaneously light beacons at the summits of the highest peaks in Scotland, Wales and England, Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike.

Moments later at Buckingham Palace, The Queen will light the National Beacon at 10.30pm.

Fields of Life was nominated for the honour in Northern Ireland by Bruno Peek, Pageantmaster for The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacons.

Fields of Life spokeswoman Helen Keown said the plan was to assemble a team of between 200 and 500 volunteers for the journey to Slieve Donard’s summit.

“We’ve already been in touch with the Boys’ Bridge, the Girls’ Brigade, the Scouts and the Duke of Edinburgh with the aim of getting them involved,” she said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for us PR wise to raise awareness of what we do. We are also using this to raise funds to build a primary school in northern Uganda for former child soldiers. Northern Uganda is an area that has been torn apart due to the activities of a rebel group called the Lords Resistance Army.

“The conflict has led to the displacement of nearly two million people and has resulted in the abduction of more than 60,000 children. Fields of Life see the provision of education as key to breaking the cycle of poverty and hardship. An education will give these children a lifeline and an opportunity to have hope, dream and ultimately contribute to their community.”

Mr Peek said he wanted to involve communities across the UK in the Queen’s celebrations.

“I wanted to include something totally unique in the event taking place this year on June 4,” he said. “So I came up with the idea of lighting gas fuelled beacons on the top of the four highest peaks in the United Kingdom. I am delighted that Fields of Life have taken up the challenge.”

Ben Nevis, Scotland will be represented by Help for Heroes, Snowdon, Wales by Walking with the Wounded and Scafell Pike, England by Cancer Research UK.

Fields of Life chief executive, Richard Spratt said, “We are delighted to take part in these celebrations where the legacy will be the provision of education for vulnerable and marginalised children in Northern Uganda for many years to come.”

Fields of Life was founded by the Rev Trevor Stevenson and his wife who lived for several years in Luwero, Uganda in the mid 90s. After seeing the brutalities of war in the poverty stricken area they created the charity. Based in Portadown and Dublin, they now operate in five east African countries; Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and The Democratic Republic of Congo. They are a cross-border, cross-community, interdenominational Christian development charity.

Since its foundation they have drilled wells, provided health education and constructed over 100 schools with over 41,000 children receiving an education helping to break their cycle of poverty.