• Loading

Suranne Jones and Sally Lindsay visit DRC for Christian Aid Week

Christian Aid Week (10-16 May), the UK’s longest running fundraising week, is this year being fronted by actresses Suranne Jones and Sally Lindsay. The close friends, who became household names after their roles in Coronation Street, have just returned from seeing Christian Aid's work in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

Suranne and Sally visited two Christian Aid partner organisations in the capital city of Kinshasa – Fondation Femme Plus (FFP) and AMO Congo.  FFP works with HIV positive women and young children through a network of volunteers, offering counselling, advice, care and support in finding ways to make a living. AMO Congo runs health clinics across the country and supports orphans and families affected by HIV by providing food, clothes and education and giving adults job training and business loans. Both organisations educate the communities in which they work to increase understanding around HIV and its transmission and challenge the stigma and discrimination that surrounds it.

During their trip Suranne and Sally met survivors of the countries brutal conflict, including a 45 year-old woman called Ambisa who contracted HIV after being raped by soldiers. They also visited a clinic supporting thousands of children orphaned by HIV and met HIV positive women and children whose families had abandoned them because of the stigma of their status.

The conflict in DRC has resulted in over 5 million deaths, more than any conflict since World War II, and HIV rates could soar as people flee to escape the fighting. In addition widespread sexual violence by soldiers and disruption to education and health services has led to increased infection rates. It is estimated that 1.3% of the 66m population are living with the virus, but that figure rises to 4.1% amongst pregnant women.

In a country with valuable natural resources, including the world’s largest diamond reserves, Suranne and Sally learnt that under half the population have access to clean drinking water, 76% are malnourished and life expectancy is just 45.

Suranne said: “I visited Sierra Leone with Christian Aid five years ago and am sad to say many of the stories I heard in the DRC echoed those I previously encountered. Both countries have endured years of conflict and it’s always the ordinary people who suffer the most. But what encourages me is seeing women and children empowered to take control of their lives, often in very dire circumstances.  It is the love and dedication of organisations funded by Christian Aid which give people the opportunity to turn their lives around so please give what you can this Christian Aid week”.

Sally said: “I heard very distressing stories but met incredibly inspirational people. The HIV projects which Christian Aid supports are a lifeline for people who often have nowhere else to turn. The biggest tragedy was seeing the potential of a country rich in resources that has been decimated by war and weak government, but the positive was seeing that the work of local organisations supported by Christian Aid can turn things around and really does change people’s lives”.

Ends

Sally and Suranne are available for interview and pictures are available from their trip, on request. Please contact John McKie on jmckie@christian-aid.org or 0207 523 2417 or 07990 522 120.

Notes to Editors: 

  • Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in 49 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.

  • To donate to Christian Aid Week, go to www.caweek.org  or call 08080 006006.

Suranne Jones has just starred in ITV’s Unforgiven, the biggest rating drama of 2009. Since Coronation Street she has starred in dramas with Rob Lowe, Ray Winstone (the Montreux Golden Rose-winning Vincent) and Linda Gray. She came to prominence in the role of Karen McDonald in Coronation Street when 17.4m viewers watched her remarry Steve in 2004.

Sally Lindsay was Shelley Unwin in Coronation Street for five years and has since worked extensively in theatre, radio and television. Most recently heard as the voice of 'Piella Bakewell' in the award winning Wallace and Gromit Christmas film, A Matter of Loaf and Death, Sally has been invited to return to The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester in August for the especially commissioned play Everybody Loves a Winner and will subsequently film a second series of Scallywagga for BBC3.