This is a text-only version of an article first published on Tuesday, 15 June 2021. Information shown on this page may no longer be current.
Retired vicar completes push-up challenge for his 90th birthday, completing 90 push-ups to raise money for charity in India
This October, Berkshire charity SalGo Assist will be celebrating its 20th anniversary.
SalGO Assist was formed at a meeting at St Mary's Church, Winnersh , to support the outreach work of a Pentecostal church in Bapatla, Andhra Pradesh, south India. Revd Clifford Smith and his wife Pat, a licensed lay minister, have had links with the area since they first visited India in 1984 to see their daughter, who was teaching in a nearby leprosy colony primary school during her gap year. Clifford says about his first trip,
"A warm welcome by the local pastor, a visit to the palm-leaf church full of lively children, and the deep faith and joy evident in a congregation with few earthly goods led us to realise that God was truly at work here, and we just might be able to help. "
A second visit in 1993, when Clifford retired from 20 years of parish ministry in the Sheffield Diocese, cemented their relationship with the church in Bapatla.
In 1996, Clifford and Pat moved south to be near their daughter Jennie, who was now married and living in Bracknell, about to give birth to her first child.
Meanwhile, friends in Bapatla had formed a charity SalGOERCO - Salem Gospel Outreach in Education and Rural Care Organisation, turning a modest family home into a small school.
They set aside one of its rooms to serve as a temporary orphanage for 15 homeless boys and girls found begging. Clifford and Pat's local churches, St Nicholas Hurst and St Mary's , soon adopted the charity, and in the year 2000 gave £2,000, a whole year's charitable giving.
This was used to promote a loan scheme (still operating today), support start-up businesses in the region and provide bicycles for gospel workers in rural areas. Since then, the charity has gone from strength to strength, although the last year has been extremely tough, with almost every fundraising opportunity, indoors or out, being cancelled.
However, they did manage to do an online appeal in April 2020, raising £2,300, which was used by the charity's partners in India to provide gift parcels of rice, dal, cooking oil, fresh fruit, sanitiser and masks. Seeing the devastation that was being wrought on the region, Clifford had an idea;
"I'll be 90 in March, why don't I try doing 90 press-ups by the time my big day arrives (20 March) and maybe raise funds for one of our projects?"
Although it sounded tough, Clifford was sure he could do it - he already did 50 or 60 press-ups a day! Between February and March, he added an extra press up each day until, on 20 March, with a few family members present (observing COVID regulations), Clifford successfully did 90 press-ups for his 90 years.
Thanks to his fundraising efforts, Clifford managed to raise over £5,000! SalGo Assist currently supports: two orphanages; funding for up to 40 children who cannot afford to take up college places; families affected by HIV+/Aids; an after-school tuition centre; a small home for elderly men; over 20 elderly ladies who need both monetary and emotional support; a rural school for up to 40 three-year-olds. For more information visit SalGO Assist - they are always looking for people who share their vision, supporting some of the poorest people in the world.