Omagh man transforms his home into a Christmas tree 'winter wonderland' - and it opens tonight!

Darren Beattie

Reporter:

Darren Beattie

Email:

darren.beattie@tyronecon.co.uk

Consider the time and effort it takes to put up the family Christmas tree. It may be a joyous occasion and its completion a reason to celebrate - but with faulty lights, tangled tinsel and broken baubles, the process can often be quite stressful.

Spare a thought, then, for Omagh man and Castlederg High School teacher Noel C Moore, who has spent the past two years collecting trees and for the last month, putting up, decorating and lighting EIGHTY-SIX trees around his Retreat Heights home!

Noel is opening up his beautiful home to the public from tonight (Thursday) until Monday for his fundraiser event 'Christmas at Noel's' with all money going to his Kenya Appeal charity. All 86 trees, fully decorated - which range from £15 to £90, from three foot to seven foot tall - are available to buy (collection can be arranged with Noel after the event) and entry is by donation.

There are small trees, large trees, medium-sized trees - even an upside-down tree! He has a dozen trees in his dining room, a dozen more in the living room and just when you think you can escape the festivities with a quick toilet break... think again! There is even a tree in the shower - and the bath!

‘Winter wonderland’

Noel's 'Winter Wonderland' will certainly be enjoyed by Christmas-lovers, but so beautifully the house is decorated, it will bring a smile to the face of even those who could be described as 'the Grinch'!

"Everyone will be very welcome to my humble home," said Noel. "You will have such a variety of Christmas trees to look at and I hope you will take great pleasure in walking around.

"It will get you into the spirit of Christmas. I think a lot of us get caught up in our busy lives and it's important to take a minute and think about the real meaning of Christmas. It's lovely to receive presents but it's a real joy to give. I will give my home to this event and allow people to enjoy the occasion. I'm sure you will be amazed."

The idea first came to Noel a couple of years ago, after he had visited Lislimnaghan Parish Church's Christmas tree festival.

"I thought it would be a wonderful idea to have something like that in my own home to raise money for my work in Kenya," said Noel.

"It has taken me a couple of years to gather the trees and decorations and then finally to pluck up the courage to actually do it."

The reason for 86 trees is personal for Noel: over the last decade, he has raised £80,000 for the people of Kenya - a country he has visited six times.

While the rest of us were decorating our houses for Halloween, Noel was carting Christmas trees from car to house, spending every spare minute he had decorating. It's fair to say he won't be expected to put up the tree at Castlederg High School this year!

‘Challenge’

"It has been a challenge," admits Noel. "It has been an expense. Thankfully a lot of the trees have been sponsored by people I know - businesses and individuals.

"I've tried to make every tree different - there are even two trees I've designed with things I've brought home from Kenya. I've looked at the design and colour scheme of each room and tried to decorate them accordingly.

"I have to thank my sister Joyce, who has been coming most evenings after her own work and tied the baubles for me. Quite easily, there has been thousands of baubles passed through her hands.

"We started over a month ago - from early morning to late nights, every spare second I've had. There have been one or two trees I have fallen out with, but we got there. I've been going to school with glitter on my face! It has been exciting, and I hope it will be rewarding as well."

While he refuses to set a target for the five-day fundraiser, Noel is hoping to raise a significant amount for the school named after him in Kenya, Noel Bustani Primary School.

Thanks to the hard work of Noel and the generosity of the people of Omagh and further afield over the last decade, Bustani Primary School now boasts 400 pupils, 12 teachers, 12 classrooms and a rebuilt nursery school.

Private schools are common in Kenya, but Bustani Primary School is the only concrete-structured government-run school in the area, targeted for the poorest in society.

"It takes £10 to employ a builder for a day in Bustani," explained Noel. "And it takes £40 to feed all 400 pupils at the school per day. The money certainly goes a long way, but it's hard work to raise the money."

As of yet, Noel hasn't set a date for his seventh visit to Kenya - but he hopes to bring another life-changing sum along with him when he does return.

With the money, Noel wants to install a third water tank at school, which will hold 120,000 litres of water, and the school have also asked him to build a library. He would also like to furnish all 15 classrooms with new desks for the children.

‘Icing on the cake’

"I think everyone has a calling in life and being able to help those who need is just a wonderful thing and seeing those children smile is the icing on the cake," said Noel.

On Monday night past, Noel held a get-together with his sponsors as a thank-you.

"Without my sponsors, it would have been very difficult to organise any event. Many of the businesses I have approached have been superb and very, very willing. Knowing the money goes directly to the school, and that I take nothing out of it, has helped."

If you would like to visit Noel's house for this spectacular, must-be-seen-to-be-believed event, take down his address: 42 Retreat Heights, Ballinamullin Road, Omagh, BT79 OHH.

There will be signs on the Cookstown Road, but the directions are as follows: take the Cookstown Road out of Omagh, travel to the mini roundabout and go straight on, take the third road (Ballinamullin Road) on the right, proceed to Retreat Heights on left. Drive into development, take a left turn and 42 is the fourth house on the right, sitting on the corner. Everyone is welcome!

The house will be open from 5pm to 9pm on Thursday, November 21 and Friday, November 22, and from 10am to 9pm on Saturday and Sunday, November 23 and 24. The final night is Monday, from 5pm to 9pm.

For more information, call Noel on 07803300776.

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