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Published on 14 May 2020

Susie Armstrong was a young vet when, one evening in May 1998, she was called to the farm of Brian Hamilton to calve a cow. It was a complicated delivery for someone who’d only qualified ten months before. But her training paid off and she managed to save the cow and her calf. More than twenty years on from that first meeting, Susie and Brian are married with three children.

It’s a school night in the kitchen of her home near Saintfield and Susie Hamilton is doing that mum-juggling thing. Supervising homeworks, arranging the children’s activities and hunting for items of lost property, all while keeping one eye on the evening meal. The words ‘super-vet’ come to mind. Does she watch the television programme of the same name?

“I do but my day-to-day work is less cutting-edge, it’s more like All Creatures Great and Small”, she laughs.

Turning to Brian I ask, is there any truth in the rumour that he only married Susie because it was cheaper than paying the vet’s bills? Brian protests his innocence and there’s more leg-pulling and laughter as the children join in the banter.

Susie and Brian Hamilton are at a busy - and expensive - stage of life. Susie (44) works 4 days a week as a vet and Brian (43) manages the family farm. With three ‘tweenagers’ to feed and clothe, I wonder what prompted them to sign up for a monthly direct debit to Christian Aid.

“It started when I was at secondary school in Coleraine”, Susie explains. “I always had an interest in humanitarian work from then.” 

“Years later, I remember watching news coverage of the East Africa famine. A 7-year old boy who’d been orphaned by the food shortages had walked for 2 weeks to reach a refugee camp. I watched as he received his first meal. Instead of tucking into the food, he began to cry tears of relief that finally he was safe and would be cared for. As a mum of 3 young kids, the boy's story really touched me and spurred me on to become involved in humanitarian relief.”

“It’s important that our children realise how privileged their lives are growing up in Northern Ireland and that children across the world live in very different circumstances to them. We feel that as young Christians they should be shown how to care for those in need. Our regular direct debit is an example of how our family can give financially to improve the lives of those living in poverty."

It’s supper time and our conversation ends as Susie’s attention shifts to the task of dishing up. Brian jokes that Susie is needed outside - there’s another cow having difficulty calving - but Susie’s not fooled. And it’s clear, as the family tuck into their evening meal, that the generosity of one Saintfield couple is filling the tummies, and bringing smiles to the faces, of more children than these lucky three. 

Author: Lisa Fagan

We receive a lot of our income via appeal mailings but this can be a costly way for us to raise money due to printing and postage. That’s why we’re encouraging our supporters, if they can, to consider direct debit giving. Predictable giving like this allows us to plan our long-term work and respond immediately when disaster strikes.

- Hollie Harte, Income and Fundraising Officer at Christian Aid.
Will you set up a monthly direct debit to Christian Aid?

Photo caption: Susie and Brian Hamilton at home on their farm near Saintfield with their children Connie (12), Jacob (11) and Jessica (10). They give £20 a month to Christian Aid by direct debit.

Picture credit: William Cherry/Press Eye