Jan 5 2010
by James McCarthy, South Wales Echo
A BIG-HEARTED couple moved by the lives of children in Cambodia are to tell guests planning on buying them wedding presents: “Please send the money to them instead.”
Julie McIlroy and Allan Donnelly were so touched after seeing the living conditions of children in Cambodia’s floating villages they decided they would like friends and family to donate to WaterAid when they tie the knot next year.
The organisation works to provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene education to the world’s poorest people.
Julie and Allan hit the headlines in 2008 after meeting over the internet – then discovering they lived seven doors apart on the same street – Pen y Dre, in Rhiwbina, Car-diff – and had done for 17 years.
Julie said: “We were in Cambodia and we went to the floating villages of Tonle Sap.
“They live on boats, the shops are boats, the school floats, everything floats.
“Small children row little boats to school.”
The Greenway Primary School teacher was horrified by the living conditions.
The 48-year-old said: “They all get on boats to go to school but the water is filthy and they use it for cooking and washing.”
There are freshwater wells but not everyone has access to them.
“We could not believe how these people were living.
“They were still happy and smiling and did all the normal things but in these floating villages.
“And we saw some horrible things like parents carrying babies to hospital and using a black bag and a stick as a drip, which was heartbreaking.”
Both Julie and Allan have been married before so have everything a home needs already.
Allan, 54, said: “We do not need wedding presents. The idea is rather than give us something we don’t need, give to WaterAid.”
Electrician and engineer Allan added: “People giving us ornaments and things, it’s a waste and I hate waste.”
WaterAid’s regional development manager for Wales, Vanessa Ashton, said she was “thrilled” by the couple’s plans.
She said: “Their generosity will transform the lives of some of the world’s poorest people by helping them to safe water, hygiene education and sanitation.
“So a big thank you and congratulations from everyone here at WaterAid.”