Mayor gives Hope to fellow orphans

Alan Richards with Oureach volunteers Ella Corey-Wright and Lucy Brooks, and Dr Sam Muthuveloe

Alan Richards with Oureach volunteers Ella Corey-Wright and Lucy Brooks, and Dr Sam Muthuveloe

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A FORMER orphan boy who rose Dick Whittington-style to become the Mayor of Milton Keynes is launching a Citizen Christmas appeal to help an entire orphanage.

Councillor Alan Richards was taken into local authority care at the age of three and lived in children’s homes until he was 18.

He has never spoken publicly before about his childhood, which included several years at the former Fegan’s home in Stony Stratford.

But this week he has broken his silence in honour of a cause close to his heart – a bunch of plucky orphans thousands of miles away in Sri Lanka. Cared for by the city-based Hope Outreach charity, they became the miracle children of Milton Keynes after surviving the 2004 tsunami by riding the giant wave in a wooden fishing boat – which had been paid for by Citizen readers.

The youngsters then went on to survive two civil war bombings, a spell in a detention-type camp, extreme hunger and thirst. Not only have they bounced back but they are thriving educationally and many are dreaming of university. While their basic needs are catered for by Hope Outreach, there are no ‘luxuries’ such as computers, educational material, books and toys.

But the charity’s new ‘sponsor an orphan’ campaign could change that. By pledging £30 sponsorship each month, a reader could totally transform one orphan’s life. The mayor himself has started the ball rolling by pledging £30 a month for a year.

For those who can’t afford this, even a one off donation of £30 could make a huge difference.

It could buy new socks for the tiny ones who painstakingly wash their only pair against a rock in a stream. It could buy a CD player for the girls who spend every minute of their spare time dancing to a made-up beat. It could buy nourishing food to supplement the mainly rice-based diet.

Most importantly it would allow Hope Outreach to help more orphans in the poverty-stricken, war-torn, north of the country, says charity head Dr Sam Muthuveloe, who is a GP at Pennylands’ Sovereign Medical Centre.

Mayor Mr Richards, who describes his own childhood as “basic and impersonal”, is urging everybody to give what they can.

“These children in Sri Lanka are incredible in their resilience and they deserve all the help we can give them

“It would be wonderful if everybody in Milton Keynes could buy one less Christmas present this year, or eat one less grand meal out, and donate the money to Hope Outreach instead.

“If people can pledge £30 a month it would be fantastic. But even a donation of £1 would make a difference.”

Mr Richards left his children’s’ home to join the army. After 23 years service, he carved out a career with a major retail company and in local government.

“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and I’m proud and privileged to be Mayor. Life is good for me now. But I am what I am because of my origins and this ensure my feet will allows be firmly on the ground,” he said.

* You can donate online by logging on to www.hopeoutreach.org.uk, or you can send a cheque made out to Hope Outreach UK to 21 Lower Stonehayes, Great Linford, Milton Keynes, MK14 5ES.