From Benoni to… Belfast

Alison Armstrong (46) will return to South Africa to implement suicide prevention programmes.

She now lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in a village called Dunmurry.

BCT: You have four children and two grandchildren. Tell us about your time in South Africa.

AA: I was born in Northern Ireland and immigrated like a lot of people did in the 80s.

I always say to people I grew up in South Africa.

I attended Putfontein Primary School because my parents thought it would help me to learn Afrikaans – it didn’t, but I had a great time there.

I went onto Willowmoore High School which I loved.

High school was the best years of my life and I made lifelong friends which I still have to this day.

BCT: When did you leave and return to Ireland?

AA: I left Ireland for South Africa at the age of eight. I left Benoni for Ireland in 1992.

I was still young and I had twin girls; I was on my own and it was tough.

My mother was leaving South Africa for Ireland after a divorce and she asked me to go with her; it seemed like a good idea at the time.

BCT: What are your memories of Benoni?

AA: Oh so many memories: Homestead Dam on the weekends, canoeing with my dad, meeting my friends at the Wimpy Bar in the middle of town on a Saturday morning, going to the movies (I’ve seen Dirty Dancing more times than I care to admit), the Warehouse Disco (can I say Disco?), my first job at the spa in the centre of town and working part time with B&J Catering.

I also remember sneaking out at night and putting OMO washing powder into the fountain in Farrarmere.

I loved growing up there, it was honestly the best.

BCT: What do you do for a living?

AA: I am a regional manager for a drug, alcohol and suicide prevention service.

BCT: When will you return to sunny South Africa?

AA: I will be back in South Africa next year because I am working on a project to bring suicide prevention skills workshops to South Africa (well Benoni for starters).

I have already raised funds to fly two people from Benoni to Northern Ireland in January 2018 to train in the facilitation of the programme.

I will then come back to South Africa with them to help them implement it.

I am excited about it – it’s a full circle for me – Benoni – Belfast – and back again.

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