Joanne, Christ Church Upper Armley

Speaking to Joanne Brophy I was very inspired to find out all she has accomplished as an Acts 435 Advocate in a very short period - and she’s not stopping there! Here she describes how easy it is to take the role as an Advocate and utilise it in ministries you’re already involved in, but also branching out to reach other areas that need the help of Acts 435.

Joanne heard about Acts 435 through her parochial church council, and was approached by her church to take on the role. She is involved in Messy Church, their toddler group ‘Pray and Play’, as well as being their disability representative, and does a lot of the social media communication for the parish. This gave her an excellent platform to begin her role as an Advocate.

She began utilising Acts 435 through these ministries, but also for some church members as well as people in need known to church members. Armley is a deprived part of Leeds and so there was plenty of need around. Since beginning the role, she has also approached her local school, taking in a leaflet and chatting to them about the possibilities of utilising her as an Advocate for the families and children within the school. Other local agencies have got in touch, including the Restorative Justice System which Joanne was delighted to be able to help with through posting a request on the website.

Add Another Advocate

At this point in our conversation Joanne took a breath, but she didn’t stop there. She also helps to run Leeds Baby Bank, which provides items and extra support such as Foodbank vouchers. She has partnered with them to help families with bills and other immediate needs. Through this partnership, she also perfectly exemplified what we are encouraging all our advocates to do this month: to Add Another Advocate.

When she discussed Leeds Baby Bank with Acts 435 Executive Director Jenny Herrera, she explained that it operated in other areas as well as Armley. She offered to help people further afield but Jenny said it would be much better to get more churches involved. Joanne knew a church that was in a prime area of Leeds for this and without further ado, made contact. A few weeks later Jenny went to present to their PCC meeting and now that church has signed up with an advocate to post requests.

This is without a doubt the best way to grow. To have an active advocate share with another church (whether local or through their own family and friends) how Acts 435 works, how great it is to bless people in this way, and how easy it is to use, we will see many more churches and local charities get involved. Let's all seek to add another advocate this year!

Growing her Work

She has many other ideas up her sleeve where she is hoping to reach those in need with the services of Acts 435; her local Children’s Centre and a drop-in place for Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Joanne has realised that the possibilities of Acts 435 are endless in her community, and with her enthusiasm and motivation she will undoubtedly keep striving for more!

She also described how being an Advocate within her church is ‘such an easy thing to do’. She has introduced Acts 435 to her congregation, just by doing a simple five-minute talk, which has helped them to engage with it.

Touching Stories

Joanne went on to tell me that her experience of being an Advocate has been fantastic, and recipients often don’t believe that people who don’t know them would want to donate, which she sometimes find a challenge; she then went on to tell me some inspiring stories of people she has already helped through Acts 435 requests.

There was a young single dad of three from the local school who desperately needed stair carpet. On talking to him he just cried and described to Joanne how hard his situation was. As well as being able to sort out the need for carpet, Joanne was also able to help with some food shopping, and help to assess his other needs that the church might be able to help with. It’s a striking story of just how an initial contact with someone because of a need can enable an Advocate, or church, to help in many other ways.

Joanne was also blown away by donors' response to a young lady who had come through her contact with Restorative Justice. This lady is looking after her sister with mental health problems, and was only behind on one payment. Joanne was pleased that donors didn’t judge her convictions, but instead donated towards the need.

The final story Joanne told me was about an asylum seeker who left her country pregnant, but whose husband had to stay in the refugee camp. She was desperate for her husband to join her, but she needed a bit more money to make the solicitor’s fees possible. Our wonderful donors gave the extra needed, and her husband has now been able to join her.

I, finally, asked Joanne what she would say to someone who was considering becoming an Advocate. 'Take some tissues!' she replied.

When you give someone the item or money they can be overwhelmed, as the amount of money can seem insignificant, it’s the fact that someone else would do this for them. It’s very easy to do, and there’s nothing difficult about it. There’s a minimal amount of administration work, with such a massive benefit for people. The small amounts of money are life changing for people, and gives applicants a link with the church, and they can offer the extra support where needed."