A COUPLE, living in Ryfields Village, have celebrated 50 years of marriage by buying a house for a child in Zambia.

Mary and Gerard Heenan, from Orford, stopped smoking in 1986 and decided to do something worthwhile with the money which they saved by not buying cigarettes.

Since then they have sponsored children living in poverty in Zambia.

Gerard, aged 71, said: “It costs £5 a week to sponsor a child, the same as a packet of cigarettes and that is a lot less than we were spending on smoking.

“We receive letters and pictures from the children who we sponsor every fortnight.

“We sponsored one boy for 16 years, until he reached 20. His parents died when he was 12 so he saw me as a father figure.”

In total, Mary, aged 72, and Gerard have sent more than £6,500 in sponsorship money to Africa through the ChildFund International charity. Now the couple have donated a further £2,500 to buy a house for one of the children who they sponsor.

Gerard said: “About three years ago, we found out that someone had funded the building of a house in the village where one of our sponsored children lived and we wanted to do the same.

“We raised the money over two years.

“We held a raffle, did odd jobs and asked for donations for our 70th birthdays and our golden wedding anniversary.

“Generous donations from our friends and family in Warrington and Galway allowed us to raise £1,500 on our wedding anniversary alone.”

Despite their recent large donation, the couple have no plans to stop sponsoring the children anytime soon.

“It is really rewarding.” added Gerard, a retired civil engineer.