Irene, CAP Advocate
Although no longer an Acts 435 advocate, Irene Rothwell was such an outstanding advocate in her time that it would seem remiss not to include her story!
When Irene Rothwell renewed contact with a previous vicar from her church in Tulse Hill, London, she had no idea what opportunities it was opening for her church to further serve those in need in the local community. That previous vicar happened to be John Sentamu, now Archbishop of York!
Irene felt that becoming her church’s Christians Against Poverty centre manager had come from an old prophecy of John Sentamu’s and wrote to him to tell him the good news of what she was involved in. Therefore, when the Acts 435 York Diocese expanded nationwide, Margaret Sentamu invited Irene to consider getting involved.
Whilst Acts 435 is a great resource for CAP clients struggling financially as they try and repay their debts, Irene felt it was clear from the beginning that it would not just be for CAP clients. The church was already working closely with a local charity that was supporting victims of domestic abuse and they naturally became a big benefactor of Acts 435 requests for help as women fled difficult situations and were left with nothing. Requests for food, for furniture, even some cutlery to eat with were common requests.
Over her three years as an advocate, Irene posted 373 requests for help on www.acts435.org.uk and the church received a staggering £36,725 for these petitions! I am sure many churches would love to have such resource available to bless those in need. Well they can – they just need to get in touch, sign up as a participating church and start posting requests. It really is that simple. When posting a lot, you do need to be organised and keep on top of the requests – Irene was great at that and I frequently held her up as an example of how quickly she got applicant forms to me once the money/item had been given!
I asked Irene which case of all those 373 had most touched her and made the greatest impact. She shared about a couple who were struggling on all levels – so much so that their children had gone into care. They were CAP clients and the wife was bi-polar. The husband was determined to stay married in spite of a very difficult situation especially when she was sectioned at one point. Irene posted an Acts 435 request for the funds for the couple to have a day out for her birthday and get away from everything as the husband had no means of doing anything given his low-income job and commitments to repaying debts. Irene spoke of what a difference that day had made and that just before she retired from CAP, they became debt-free. She felt so privileged to have been a part of making a significant difference in their lives.
Irene was one of our greatest advocates in the true sense of the word. Once signed up, she started talking to Christians Against Poverty about Acts 435 and was invited to speak at CAP gatherings about how it worked in practice. CAP has been one of the main ways we have spread geographically and therefore is a key connection for us. In December 2013 Irene retired from her CAP centre manager role but continued as the Acts 435 Advocate for Holy Trinity and St. Matthias Church until she and her husband moved away from London in September 2014. While we miss her very much, we are grateful to her successor, Alice, who is still posting a great number of requests and helping many people in need in South London, both through CAP and the local domestic violence charity.
It came as no surprise to me to hear that when the Pastor of their new church in rural Ross-on-Wye came to visit the Rothwells he went away with an Acts 435 leaflet in his hand and an offer from Irene to be the Advocate if the church chooses to get involved. With a CAP centre and a Job Club already functioning within the church, we are confident they will!
(Photo taken at 2012 Advocate's Gathering of Irene, the Archbishop of York and his wife Margaret outside Bishopthorpe Palace.)