Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YORK to 80360 or send an email»
Acts of kindness...
Two years ago today, the Archbishop of York launched an innovative charity, which has helped more than 1,000 people. GAVIN AITCHISON talks to him about its success.
ALISON was burdened by crippling debt until a team of mystery heroes stepped in.
Margaret, a hard-up pensioner, was facing a cold and lonely winter – until she too was saved.
Here in North Yorkshire, ten-year-old Andy, who has special educational needs, required £100 for a judo club that his head teacher thought would boost his self-esteem. Once again, the unseen and unsung heroes came up with the goods – and Andy said the first class was his best day ever.
All three stories come from the past six weeks and share the same themes: hardship, desperation, and selfless generosity. The Archbishop of York singles them out for mention, but there are hundreds of other such tales on which he could have focused.
Alison, Margaret and Andy are only three of the many people who have benefited from Acts 435, the pioneering charity the Archbishop launched two years ago.
In total, 750 requests have been fulfilled, helping an estimated 1,500 people. Donations have totalled more than £60,000 and the project has spread from York to 85 churches around the country, from Newcastle to Plymouth.
It is a wonderfully simple project. People in need submit a particular request – eg buying a new cooker or paying a winter heating bill. A local church validates it and liaises with the applicant and the request is posted on the Acts 435 website. Donors can then contribute towards a particular recipient or towards a general fund for the most urgent demands.
The site has grown rapidly after a fairly slow start, and the Archbishop is now eyeing more success. Last week, he told The Press he wanted Acts 435 to one day help a million people and to become known internationally as a force helping people around the world.
Dr Sentamu knows what it is like to be in dire straits. He was six years old when famine hit his home village in Uganda, he says. His parents were good farmers and had a supply of crops, but others did not.
“It was a big question – should we save it? My father said no, if people are very much in need, we should help. And if we run out, we run out together. In the end, we reduced what we ate but we never ran out.
“I remember we had a very little plate of potatoes and a few vegetables and my father looked at our faces and we were very disappointed. He said it was my turn to say grace, and I said: ‘Dear God. Thank you for this food. We would be more grateful if we had more.’
“The needs of the global village can be met by the citizens of the world. There ought to be nobody starving. There is enough food and enough resources and enough ability. If this charity became global, it means even in a little village, people can benefit.”
The charity arose from discussions between the Archbishop and a local Christian businessman keen to help those in need without embarrassing them.
They came up with the concept of the website and the verses around Acts 4:35 in the Bible epitomised their aims.
Today, the campaign is growing through work with churches and food bank charities, but much of the progress is through word of mouth, including from recipients’ testimonials. Some of those who benefit join a church but that is not the main aim, says the Archbishop.
“I would like someone to get to know Christ,” he says. “But if someone is hungry or homeless or in desperate need, it is not easy for them to hear about God, because they will say ‘Why is he not helping me?’.
“If you give, you feel more humane. Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive and the more we give, the more we recognise our humanity.”
Margaret’s story, from Christmas last year, was one of Dr Sentamu’s favourites. “She had switched off her heating because she did not have any money,” he says.
“It was around Christmas and she was not going to see her family. But money came in and her heating was able to go back on – and she was able to go to visit her grandchildren for Christmas. We will never know whether, through this charity and the money given, we maybe saved her life. Certainly we made it possible for her to see her grandchildren.”
Visit the charity’s website at www.acts435.org.uk
• Names have been changed to protect anonymity.