Emma, Chipping Norton
Emma Kennedy is part of a church in Chipping Norton, a small market town in the Cotswolds. Not only has she utilised Acts 435 as a resource for the church's parent drop-in, and their Christians Against Poverty centre, but also in their local primary school where there are many needs for families to respond to.
"We are surrounded by beautiful rolling countryside and picturesque villages and we are home to many celebrities. However, all this can mask the very real social need in our town. Amazingly God has opened up a great opportunity to work in our primary school, where we have created Nurture Room. Here we engage with children who are having to deal with situations which you would hope that children never had to experience: from the death of a parent to friendship issues. In the Nurture Room, Catherine (who is employed by the church as a schools and community support worker) has great conversations with the children - and this is where she might find out that there is a problem at home, perhaps they don’t have a proper bed, or a school P.E. kit - and it is so wonderful to know in these instances we can turn to Acts 435. We are also just about to apply for some money towards a few of these children, who are often carers to their parents and rarely get a break, to go on a local Christian adventure camp for a week in the summer. So they can have a break, and also learn just how much Jesus loves each one of them.
As a church we also run a parent drop-in on a Monday morning, listening to parents and helping them with basic parenting or signposting them to services that might help the whole family to thrive. It is often in these sessions that we become aware of a need, and because of the simple and effective way Acts 435 operates, I can chat to the parent there and then and fill in a request. They are always blown away that a complete stranger, who know so little about their situation, would want to help them.
We have also worked to build good relations with our local Housing Department and Housing Associations. This means that when vulnerable families or individuals are housed in Chipping Norton, we are often contacted to help them with furniture, especially cookers or other white goods. Often we have had a washing machine or fridge donated - but cookers are more rare - and on a number of occasions, particularly in the run up to Christmas, it became apparent that there were a number of families without cookers. With a grant from Acts 435 we can normally find a second hand appliance, and then deliver and fit it for the family."
Using Acts 435 in such a varied way has enabled Emma, and those in roles around her, to help those in need in their local community, which all started when she heard about us from the Christians Against Poverty Centre Manager, at their church.
Emma went on to say;
"Acts 435 makes such a difference to our outreach work. Knowing that we can apply for each individual we are supporting through Acts 435 means that we do not have to wait to see whether the request will fit in our church's budget - we can act immediately and this is often the catalyst that then opens the door and means we can work in an even more constructive and long-term way with the client.
It is a complete joy being an Acts 435 Advocate - as, with the support of all the wonderful donors, you can help to bring about an almost immediate difference to an individual or family. Especially when they are used to being stuck in systems where they are told there is going to be a 6-week delay or wait. If they are a family without a cooker, and you tell them you will apply to a charity, and often within a week you have the money and can get a cooker delivered, they are overwhelmed. It is such a fabulous, generous and practical way of showing Jesus love for them.
We have also applied for money to help with bigger projects, where we have large teams going in to clear, clean and refurnish homes. These are often where families are facing eviction if they don’t act fast. We have willing volunteers, and a store full of gifted furniture, but it is with items such curtain poles, paint or rugs, which make a real difference when we have turned to Acts 435 for that additional financial support. Again, people are blown away, that people who are complete strangers, are willing and make the time to give in this way."
We also asked Emma to tell us some memorable stories of those that her and the church have been able to help with grants from Acts 435;
"It is often the case that when we have been working with a family or individual, it is in the first or final steps where Acts 435 can be such an encouragement. A lady had just started working with Christians Against Poverty, and was making strong steps forward to the point where she was ready to go back to work. However, she realised that she needed to pay her professional registration fees as an occupational therapist - a huge barrier to someone living on a very tight budget. The relief she felt when we told her that Acts 435 would be able to help her cover that cost was amazing, and has enabled her to make another step back into employment and into fulfilling her potential.
Likewise, I have worked with several homeless individuals, who cannot reconnect with housing or other agencies as they have rent arrears. Often these are not that large, but prevent them from being able to take steps forward. The grant from Acts 435 is seen as a clear indicator that the individual is now starting to engage and is beginning to tackle their debt, and for many of them has been a catalyst to see them clearing their arrears, re-engaging with agencies that are offering support and then moving on into housing or employment projects.
Even in a small town, the generosity of Acts 435 can make a huge difference and shine the light of Jesus very brightly."