Reflections on 2021
2021 has been another year of instability and change for the UK. It has also been a year of even more hardship for those who are in poverty. We're thankful that as a charity we were able to help over 7,000 individuals in 2021 with one-off gifts that have helped them in a crisis or desperate situation. Throughout the year we were able to resource 444 Advocates to post requests for those who needed a helping hand, or a fresh start.
We started the New Year with no live requests on our website due to the generosity of our donors who had met them all over the Christmas season. However, it wasn't long before local Advocates began posting more requests for those that they were meeting in their communities.
In April of 2021 we hosted our first ever Giving Hope Together event online, which saw over 90 supporters join us to celebrate and hear more about our work, including the release of our first ever official Annual Report (view it here). We also saw our most successful year of our Fresh Start Appeal as 200 requests for a new start were met. This meant that 200 individuals and families were given a fresh start from situations such as homelessness, debt and domestic violence.
During the spring we held Advocate Gatherings online, which were an opportunity for our local volunteers to be equipped and inspired. It also made it possible for those who wouldn't normally be able to attend due to distance to feel part of the wider Acts 435 network.
Our Communications Team headed to Byker in Newcastle in June to film a video about recipients helped by Acts 435 Donors, which churches then had the opportunity to share with their congregations at Acts 435 Sunday in July. You can view the video here, or below.
Also in June we bid a fond farewell to Margaret Sentamu who has faithfully served our Board of Trustees for 10 years. Jennifer Herrera, our Executive Director said: "Margaret always [brought] a wonderful exuberance coupled with being deeply practical and grounded". She will be missed by us all! Read Jenny's farewell to Margaret here.
In the Autumn we gathered as many local Advocates together online as possible, and we shared experiences and inspiration! As a Head Office team we were also able to update them with some training and guidance on how we work. We also launched our new initiative for Donor Churches, which encourages churches who may want to support our work further to sign-up to financially contribute towards our work on an annual basis, as well as spreading the word about what we do. You can see more about how to sign-up as a Donor Church here.
We also attended the Jubilee+ conference 'Churches that Change Communities' in November. It was an excellent conference at which we were not only able to share our work but were also equipped as a charity.
We were sad to say goodbye to our Admin Assistant in December, but thankful to have had two new members join our Head Office Team in Autumn/Winter 2021, Becka Winslade and Carol Dealtry. Their contributions to the Communications and Operations Teams will be invaluable to our team as we continue to grow in 2022.
We finished 2021 with an amazing opportunity for our donors to give to those in need through our Christmas campaign, which was called the Gift of Giving. We reminded our supporters that it is a gift to give to others and in turn they receive a much-needed gift. Throughout December we were able to help 804 people, which helped many to bridge a gap, get through a crisis or begin again.
We're so very thankful to all those involved with Acts 435 who make it possible for us to help so many people in 2021. We want to particularly thank our donors and Advocates, without which we couldn't help anyone. Our Advocates seek to help individuals in their local communities, and go above and beyond to help. Our donors willingly and generously seek to help individuals, and each month we're so grateful that we are able to see all the needs posted onto our website met. As a charity it isn't just about the figures of those that have been helped, but the individuals themselves. Here's just one message of thanks from a gentleman who was helped in 2021 that resonated with all of us at Head Office:
D is a Christians Against Poverty (CAP) client who is on a tight budget to repay his debts. His brother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he wanted to be able to visit him and talk to him about his faith before he died. The journey was an 800-mile round trip and the visits had put a real toll on his budget, which was causing him emotional strain. The CAP Centre Manager requested £120 towards petrol costs to ease the burden on D's finances, and make sure that he could visit his brother-in-law.
D was so grateful for the gift, and said:
"Thank you so much for this gift. Because the spiralling cost of petrol for the trips to visit my dying brother-in-law was taking its toll on me mentally as well as the physical strain of so much driving. This final trip that you have paid for turns out to have been our last because my brother-in-law passed away peacefully during that visit and we were there praying for him at the end. It meant so much that my wife and I were there with him to say goodbye so thank you."
Jenny Herrera, our Executive Director said that "2021 has felt like a steady year for Acts 435. Whilst the circumstances around us have gone through so many changes as we adapt to the pandemic, activity for the charity has been stable. Our experience is that whatever we face, there are people in this nation who are really struggling financially and there are people who are moved to help them. The cumulative effect of hundreds of people doing that is to facilitate over £850,000 going directly to people in need."