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A vibrant, virtual, Christian Aid week

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This week (10 to 16 May) marks a Christian Aid Week with a difference.  In a space of just a few months, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a seismic shift in society.

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Christian Aid Week: The baby bishop in the kitchen drawer

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The Rt Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham had a strange entry into the world: “When I was born, dad put me straight in the kitchen drawer.”

Bishop Alan with a picture of himself and his brother as children

“My mother had been for a check-up at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, where we lived.  ‘You have plenty of time,’ the doctors assured her. ‘Just go home and wait.’ Suddenly, she went into labour and gave birth to me right there in the kitchen. I was put into a kitchen drawer as my dad called an ambulance,” says Bishop Alan.

Fortunately, we only lived about two miles down the road from the hospital – so my mum and I were soon receiving essential post-natal support from trained, well-equipped staff. My dad was so grateful, he gave the ambulance driver a bottle of Scotch! That was in 1955. But today, every mother deserves this level of service – from trained staff with all the equipment they need to provide a great level of care.

“That’s why, this Christian Aid Week I’m encouraging supporters to raise funds for the situation in Sierra Leone, where 10 mums a day die giving birth. Sierra Leone is the most dangerous country in the world to give birth in, by a long margin. It was still recovering from the civil war when the Ebola crisis hit. The Ebola outbreak killed one in 10 health care workers and left the country with significant debt.

“These can seem like impossible situations to tackle – but it is remarkable what can be done when we stand together. Over 20,000 churches take part in Christian Aid Week to support their global neighbour and we are delighted to be part of that movement.”

Bishop Alan (left) with his brother

Churches across Buckinghamshire raised over £100,000 for Christian Aid Week in 2018. This year supporters will be organising door-to-door collections, hosting Big Brekkies and holding a range of other fundraising activities.

If there is no clinic in their village, pregnant women in rural Sierra Leone can wait up to eight hours before an ambulance arrives. Others travel to the hospital on the back of a hired motorbike, but the poorest have no choice but to walk for hours on foot. Many women and babies do not survive the journey, particularly from May to December, when food is scarce.

Christian Aid is helping remote communities come together to build health clinics as well as training nurses to provide urgent care in communities and improving hygiene, so mothers and babies are more likely to fight off diseases.

Bishop Alan added: “Christian Aid Week is an amazing celebration to change the world, through generosity, solidarity and action. We are grateful to everyone who is making this event possible. We passionately believe that, when we come together, the almighty power of people can make a world in which dignity, equality and justice are experienced by everyone – and it can be fun at the same time!”

Heavily pregnant Jebbeh Konneh is checked by Nurse Judith in the temporary clinic in Sawula village, Sierra Leone. This clinic, which receives support from Christian Aid, has no electricity and only two delivery beds. Photo Christian Aid

  • £15 could buy a stethoscope or a bucket of paint for a community health clinic.
  • £60 could buy a starter kit for community health workers, which includes a bicycle, torch, raincoat and rain boots.
  • £2,500 could buy solar panels for a new clinic.

To find out how to get involved or to donate, click here or call 08080 006 006, or text ‘GIVE’ to 70040 to give £5.* Donations will support communities such as those featured and wherever the need is greatest.

Christian Aid is also inviting supporters to join its campaign to drop Sierra Leone’s debt incurred during its fight against Ebola, in 2014-2016. The worst outbreak of the disease in history killed around 10 per cent of the country’s health care workers. Debt repayments are taking money away from desperately needed improvements to healthcare services.

The drop the debt petition can be found here

 

Free war ravaged lives from fear this Christian Aid Week

BISHOPS are encouraging church goers to support Christian Aid Week (11 – 17 May) and help communities in war-ravaged countries rebuild their lives and be free from fear.

The Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Andrew Proud releases a dove as a sign of peace in the run up to Christian Aid Week.

The Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Andrew Proud releases a dove as a sign of peace in the run up to Christian Aid Week.

The Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, was at Christ Church Cathedral with the city’s Christian Aid team to pledge his support for the campaign. Shortly after the Door went to press, the Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Andrew Proud was due to release two white doves as symbols of peace at Reading Minster, St Mary the Virgin.

Bishop John said: “War tears people apart. Peace pieces them back together. Christian Aid Week enables 20,000 churches across the country to raise awareness of how many millions of people live daily in fear of violence. It also allows us to give from our relative abundance to their often absolute poverty. Let’s do it.”

Their support for Christian Aid Week came after Sarjon Toma, an aid worker from Iraq, visited the Diocese of Oxford to raise awareness of the work his organisation, REACH do. Sarjon, whose wife and two children were back in Iraq, works with REACH, a Christian Aid partner, to help set up Community Based Organisations (CBOs) in rural areas where agriculture has been affected by a drought.

Aid worker Sarjon Toma raises awarness in High Wycombe.

Aid worker Sarjon Toma raises awarness in High Wycombe.

He explained how when speaking with his family he speaks one of the Kurdish Christian languages but in Baghdad he would speak Arabic. His work for REACH also involves helping Syrian refugees.

“We start community groups and involve and empower women. Women in Iraq have a big problem with suffering due to female genital mutilation.

“After the drought in Iraq rural areas were affected with 70 per cent of the water table being very very low. In villages the population often consists of 60 to 70 per cent women with no jobs so we start projects to provide water. The Government have plans to provide drinking water through tankers. In one village the majority of people had started to leave for the city. We saw a small well and started to build a dam.” Sarjon showed a photograph of a small reservoir that now provides water for a greenhouse and for drinking. “There is enough water for 30 families in a reservoir containing 450 square metres of water.”

Christian Aid works with partners in many countries around the world who are dealing with the challenges of on-going conflict, or the legacy war leaves behind. Places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Iraq, South Sudan and Syria, which are regularly in the news, but also countries like Angola and Sierra Leone that are still re-building many years after the fighting has stopped.

 

Bishop John goes door-to-door at Oxford's Cathedral at Christ Church.

Bishop John goes door-to-door at Oxford’s Cathedral at Christ Church.

 

Hope in a barren land

AS a Youth and Student Intern for Christian Aid I was lucky enough to witness the work of Dabane Trust first-hand, writes Chris Bright. I met 47-year-old Skha,  who lives in a community that has been working closely with

Chris Bright is pictured with Silindende Gumbo, a gardener in the Asenzi Garden, a nutrition garden supported by the Dabane Trust.

Chris Bright is pictured with Silindende Gumbo, a gardener in the Asenzi Garden, a nutrition garden supported by the Dabane Trust.

Dabane Trust to build a sand dam, which is used to trap water deep within the sand, providing safe, clean water for drinking and agriculture. Skha described to me how she worked with other members of her community to build the dam. They dug the foundations and collected rocks, whilst Dabane Trust provided water and tools to make the cement. The dam took two years to build. I was inspired by the level of determination Skha and her community had shown by enduring extremely hot conditions and digging into solid ground in order to access a reliable water source, which I take for granted every day at home.

Water extracted from the sand dam is used to irrigate crops such as onions and kale grown in a community nutrition garden. Dabane Trust has supported many communities in Zimbabwe to establish nutrition gardens and has offered training in gardening techniques. Nutrition gardens are green pockets of hope amidst an otherwise barren land. Gardeners I met proudly showed me their crops and explained how the garden means they can grow enough food to feed their families and any surplus can be sold for income. Through working alongside Dabane Trust communities have been empowered to lift themselves out of poverty.

The climate, an ageing population, and no secure tenure all pose significant obstacles to achieving water security in Zimbabwe. However Skha and her community have been encouraged by Dabane Trust to change their situation and they are determined to end poverty in their area. If Skha’s community is working hard to end poverty, this Christian Aid Week we must do the same.

Chris Bright is the Volunteer Youth and Student Intern for Christian Aid in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire.

Christian Aid Week: Get involved

Christian Aid Week (12-18 May 2013), Britain’s longest running door-to-door fundraising week, will this year be urging the British public to ‘bite back at hunger’ and ask why, in a world where there is enough food for everyone, one in eight people go to bed hungry every night?

Hunger is the world’s biggest health risk. It kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. In developing countries, a third of all child deaths are linked to hunger.

But tackling hunger with sustainable solutions has long-term benefits. Nourished women have healthier babies, reducing hunger helps economies grow and it builds a safer and more secure world.

Building dams in the hot sun

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As the UK attempts to recover from the devastating effects of flooding and freezing temperatures, Thelma Ntini tells Jo Duckles how she is working hard to bring vital water supplies to rural areas of Zimbabwe where there has not been heavy rainfall in a decade.Thelma Ntini

Thelma met me while visiting the Oxford Diocese to raise awareness of the work she does for the Dabane Trust, a Christian Aid partner. It was the first visit she had ever made to Europe, in the run up to Christian Aid week and she was excited to see a new part of the world. She had been amazed to get off a plane and see our rivers full to the point of almost overflowing, in contrast to the arid areas she works in.

Thelma (right) helps to provide sustainable water sources to poor communities. She describes how 85 per cent of the people who use the water pumps the Dabane Trust installs are women and 40 per cent of those are widows, some with HIV and other chronic diseases.

Thelma, a mother-of-four and grandmother of three, is fortunate in that she knows where her family members are. Many mothers do not hear from their children when they leave to find work in neighbouring countries, for as long as five years. Sometimes youngsters return sick with HIV or other diseases having been unable to find employment. Similarly their husbands have left to find work elsewhere because of the state of the Zimbabwean economy.

The Dabane Trust is based in Balawayo, the second largest town in Zimbabwe and from there reaches out to rural communities. “We attend district council meetings and explain what we can offer. If allowed entry into the district we go to the sub-divisions of those districts where there is the greatest need for food and for water and do feasibility surveys with the local community.”

She said the Trust will go through discussions with local governments and other stakeholders and Ministries within the areas, particularly the Ministry of Agriculture.

“We will use bore holes if there are no river systems and will construct dams if there are rivers. We used to construct surface dams but with those a large percentage of water will be lost through evaporation. With sand dams water is stored within the sand. You dig a deep trench, right down to the bedrock, pour concrete into it and trap water in the sand.”

The Dabane Trust is researching the most useful types of water pumps for the communities it works with. “We are not into engines. They need a high level of technical maintenance. We use small, manual hand pumps, recycled plastic pumps fitted into the sand that syphon water from the sand to where it is needed.

Thelma, a former teacher is married to an agriculturalist and says she loves to see things grow. “If you are growing your own crops you have food for your family. In our culture it is the women that see to it that there is food on the table. This job means I can help enable the women that I work with to provide that food.”

She said that aid, while necessary in emergencies, is not the answer in areas where people can be enabled to manage a situation and become more resilient. “Some women have graduated from providing food for their families and now have surplus to sell to neighbours or take into town to get a higher price and improve their kitchens, buying pots and pans or even constructing new huts as their families get bigger.

“I enjoy this because teaching in a primary school, you tell the children that two and two make four, whereas with this work, you discuss issues from both sides with adults and come up with a solution together.”

When asked how Christians in the Oxford Diocese can support her work, Thelma said: “Christian Aid has been supporting the Dabane Trust since 1998. By supporting Christian Aid, some of the funds you donate are given to us. We would also really ask that you would pray for encouragement.

“The drought is not anything we can control. Please pray for the climate conditions in our country. The other challenge, as men and young people leave to look for work in other countries, and find it difficult when they get there, is for our economy.

“Please pray for us as a nation. Our economy went down and our industry collapsed. Please pray for our economy so that people can come back home.”