Friends of Asha (Ireland) chose Ballymena as the venue to celebrate this landmark occasion on Saturday 16th November. Dr. Kiran and Freddy Martin were welcomed to the Borough by the Mayoress, Audrey Wales MBE, at a reception with local dignitaries, where Dr. Kiran gave a summary of her 25 years with some of the poorest people.
Later on, Wellington Presbyterian Church was the venue for a buffet reception for around 150 Friends of Asha from various parts of Ireland and, afterwards, numbers swelled to over 1,000 for the evening celebration. Friends from England and Scotland were also in attendance.
The celebration worship music, provided by the 120-strong Voice of Hope choir and Raise the Roof children’s choir (conducted by Asha supporter Alyson Reid), was a highlight of the evening, along with a walk-past by representatives of 27 teams from Ireland that have visited Asha over the past 12 years. Rev Simon Richardson shared experiences of his expedition to Delhi with the Parish team last autumn. He especially highlighted his visits to the women’s groups where he and Jim Cheshire learnt about their work, and his dialogue with Freddy Martin (his interpreter in Delhi) was especially poignant, yet greatly encouraging.
The keynote speaker was the lively and vivacious Dr Kiran herself who possesses the real ongoing vision and zeal for the work of Asha. She spoke about the values and ethos of the organisation, expressing justice for the poor of our society, compassion and the love of God.
Dr Kiran also spoke in Holywood Parish Church on the Sunday, and expressed her sincere thanks to the members of the congregation for their generous support to Asha through the partnership with Zakhira slum colony. A replica of a slum hut had been erected by Noel Henderson in the chancel of the church. The children really loved it as Dr. Kiran explained to them thar it showed exactly the situation 25 years ago when Asha first became involved, but went on to confirm how much better the situation is today.