So it’s the middle of exam season and for many people, walks to the library are a frequent occurrence. If you have been walking round Durham this week, you may have seen a large red banner displayed, possibly near a Church, with the words “Christian Aid week: 13th – 19th May” written in white. These banners may be new and temporary, but the work of Christian Aid has been ongoing for more than 50 years….
The first Christian Aid week happened in 1957. Of central significance is the distribution and collection of red envelopes which are given to households across the UK (you may even have one of these if you’re a liver-out!). Christian Aid’s ultimate goal is simple; “Poverty Over”, with big dreams to eradicate poverty across the world. They strive towards this goal by addressing key issues which underlie poverty such as climate change, government corruption and health problems. Christian Aid works in 47 countries around the world through 507 partner organisations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, helping to “empower local people and enable change to happen.”
This year’s Christian Aid Week bears the slogan, “Let’s give the tools to help people in poverty out of poverty” and emphasises that providing communities in poverty with resources and skills will be beneficial in the long term to break the persistent cycle of poverty. 100,000 volunteers are estimated to participate by raising funds to help the world’s most vulnerable people. Although Church focused, the role is not faith-exclusive and Christian Aid urges all people across the UK to get involved. One volunteer stated: “We organise a one-off event each year, which involves the whole community; seeing everyone of all faiths and no faiths working together for one cause is very uplifting and raises a large amount of money at the end.“
Christian Aid Week 2012 is focusing on a success story of one specific community in Sierra Leone that has seen remarkable change. They tell the story of Tenneh Keimbay, whose life turned around when Christian Aid partner, the Methodist Church of Sierra Leone (MCSL) started to work in her town, distributing tools and teaching farmers simple food production techniques. In an interview with Christian Aid, she emphasises the difference this has made: “Now the children eat two meals per day all year round, whereas before it was one. They are growing well; they don’t cry around me because of hunger. They are happy to go to school because something is in their stomach.”
Christian Aid emphasise how the benefits of regular food can make a huge difference to individuals living in poverty. Yet the changes in the community in Sierra Leone are more than just not feeling hungry: Tenneh also speaks of the huge difference working in a group has made to her. Acting together, farmers can share their skills and work more efficiently. Tenneh speaks of the support and the encouragement that the farmers give to each other, and how much can be achieved when the community comes together. “What inspires me in life is unity,” she says. “To me, unity means coming together to decide on one thing and take that forward.” As hunger has become less of a problem, the people of Gbap (pronounced Bap) have come together and successfully lobbied for a new school and an agricultural work centre for the community, demonstrating how they have taken their future into their own hands.
This story emphasises what Christian Aid strive to do – not just to provide financial aid, but to equip people living in poverty with the resources that they need so that they can make a living for themselves and be lifted out of the poverty cycle permanently. Small donations are just as valuable as large ones; just £6.50 could buy a set of four hand tools for a farmer living in the town of Gbap, a resource which can make a huge difference.
Fundraising actions have already been occurring throughout 2012; earlier this year in Causes, the significance of the “Live below the Line” campaign was emphasised and Christian Aid are also urging people to raise money through living below the poverty line for 5 days. However, this Christian Aid Week, Churches and communities around the UK are holding fundraising events to raise money for countries like Sierra Leone. If that’s not possible for you in Durham, you can always log onto e-bay where Christian Aid have organised a charity sale. Celebrities such as Tali Lennox, Alan Titchmarsh, and even Oliver Proudlock from Made in Chelsea (!) have used their creative talents to create customised gardening tools which can be bid for with 100% of the profits going to Christian Aid.
These actions demonstrate that Christian Aid Week is something that can make a huge difference to communities in poverty – log onto www.caweek.org to see how it’s happening and how it helps.