A Tough Year that ended on a High!
Globally and nationally, few would argue that 2022 was a difficult year. We have not been able to breathe a sigh of relief after the pandemic and have a bit of 'business as normal' but have instead watched with horror the war in Ukraine unfold and see the repercussions of that, alongside other things, make life in the UK for those in poverty unbearably challenging.
People in UK poverty spend a much larger percentage of their income on energy bills and food than the rest of the population and with so few having any savings, there has simply been no wiggle room to cope with the increasing costs of our basic necessities. Never has Acts 435 and other charities reaching out to those struggling financially been so needed. Yet, donors too are seeing a squeeze on their incomes and we have been concerned at how we might meet the increasing need.
As a charity, Acts 435 has waded through the complexity of launching a brand new website. Perhaps we were naive in the scope of the project, but we must acknowledge there was a poor fit between us and the chosen developers which led to the launch of a website that was failing both our donors and our partner churches and charities in so many ways. We have been so grateful for their sticking power to persevere as we moved away to a new developer and the capacity to swiftly fix issues and improve the website for all.
There was a time in the early Autumn where live requests had mounted up to 300, some requests had been on the website for over 20 days, and the staff team felt the burden of needs unfulfilled and a website not fit for purpose. That is what makes the end of the year all the more incredible.
After a slowing in activity in September and October, the floodgates opened (in part thanks to reinstating PayPal!) and for the first time ever, we received over £100,000 in donations, not just once in November, but again in December. Better than that, on Christmas Eve we saw all our live requests met in full and for the whole month of December the average number of days reduce to 2 from a high of 11 just months earlier.
It is hard to put into words just how incredible this was for us. From 1st to 24th December we were averaging over £4,000 being given every single day to meet the urgent needs of people struggling. That sent out a message that was loud and clear to them: people care that you are struggling; they care enough to reach into their pockets and give to meet your needs. We are conscious many charities are seeing a dip in income during the current cost-of-living crisis and we are left speechless at the incredible generosity we have witnessed to end 2022 on such a high note. When you know that anyone in need known to your partners has had that need met, it is an incredible feeling.
We have the vision to be helping over 1,000 people a month by 2025 - through a network of 1,000 partners. In December 2022 that goal felt achievable once more and we look forward to the year ahead and opportunities to reach new partners and new donors so that even more people can receive the urgent support they need.
While we reflect on those we have helped I want to share just two stories, of the incredible 7,533, individuals helped in 2022.
Last year we saw an increase in people asking for help who are employed. Such as D in Carrickfergus. D never imagined that she would find herself living alone with health problems that impact on her daily life, and struggling financially. Even though she is in employment, she is finding that her wages are no longer providing for her needs. She had started reducing her energy use when her local Advocate suggested he post a request onto the Acts 435 website for some help towards her energy bills. On receiving the gift of £120 towards this, she said:
It is impossible to ever express how truly thankful I am for your generous donation from the kindest people. Simply put, without your support I don't know where I would've been or the extra struggles I would have faced this winter. The donations have been used on gas and electricity to ensure I have basic needs covered, which in itself is a blessing. I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you do, not just for me but also others.
This story is of a family who are seeking asylum, and made us smile in 2022. The family asked for help with swimming lessons for their children. Here is what their local Advocate had to say when their request was fulfilled:
Thank you for donating towards swimming lessons and equipment for P. As a vulnerable asylum seeker who has suffered months of abuse and exploitation, P's mental health is very poor, suffering from trauma-induced psychosis. This has been extremely difficult for the family, but they have borne it stoically and are simply thankful for escaping a horrible experience. The family do not ask for or expect anything, but during a recent visit by support workers P and his wife were very upset that their children had missed out on swimming lessons with school: their classmates had been showing off their badges and talking about how much fun it had been. As P and his wife do not have access to public funds and have no money, there was no way they could afford swimming lessons for the children, but thanks to your donations we have been able to kit them out with swimming costumes and goggles, and a course of swimming lessons, which they are delighted with. Thank you so much for your generosity.