Our alumni are the biggest area of impact for us. It’s really exciting to see what they get up to after university. Over the next few months we will be highlighting some of their stories on this blog. Here’s Bronwyn’s story.
September is often seen as the month of ‘fresh starts’ – typically when the academic calendar resets and students have a chance to turn over a new leaf for the year ahead. This year September held a different fresh start for me as I wasn’t heading back to Glasgow where I’d spent the past 4 years. Instead, I was beginning a life in Bradford and stepping into the world of work through the Lead internship with Christians Against Poverty. I may have been swapping Scotland for England, minimal contact hours and midnight shifts in the library for the 9-5 routine but the gentle mocking of my Northern Irish dulcet tones continued unabated in my new home!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was through Just Love that I first found my way to CAP. Our very own Northern coordinator Josh chatted with me about a month of volunteering he and some other Just Love alumni previously had done with them. It seemed the perfect fit for me as it was an organisation passionate about restoring dignity to individuals, caring for the vulnerable and tackling UK poverty head on. During my time at university, I’d learnt of widespread structural inequality through my study of Human Geography, as well as the Bible’s persistent and unwavering defence of the poor through JLG. Post-university I wanted to find a way to explore these avenues together. CAP’s Vision is to serve the poor and save the lost working through the church across the nation so naturally, I jumped at the chance to be part of it.
So far this year, I’ve seen how CAP works in partnership with the local church to deliver a holistic set of services, offering practical and emotional help to those struggling with debt, unemployment and addictions across the UK. This year I’m working in the Debt Management Plan (DMP) team where my role involves speaking directly to our clients and supporting them on their journey to paying off their debt. Through these conversations I’m learning something of the isolating and debilitating nature of debt, the difficulties of struggling on a low income and the complexities of UK poverty.
CAP’s debt counselling service is intended to support those with levels of vulnerability extending beyond their financial situation. Let me share just one story of a client who was trapped in unmanageable financial difficulty and CAP helped find a fresh start. Terry* was struggling and wasn’t able to find support. He recalls how his mental state was deteriorating and he felt anxious and depressed: ‘my studio flat fell into disrepair, the boiler didn’t work, I slept on the floor and couldn’t deal with the wreckage’. He fell behind on his mortgage payments and was unable to work. At his lowest he wondered if he would be evicted and he’d want to kill himself. CAP helped connect Terry to the local church where he found companionship and practical support. He made friends at the church’s weekly coffee mornings and began attending the CAP Job Club. Here, he was equipped with skills to begin looking for work again and had his self-esteem restored to apply for jobs. Working with CAP on a DMP now he says ‘I can see the prospect of a normal life where I earn a living, cook for myself and am on top of my affairs. I can see a way forward now’.
Terry’s story is like many I’ve heard since coming to CAP in September. Working here has helped me lift my faith to believe the local Church is a powerful force for change in communities and that the gospel really is good news for the poor. Through Just Love, I was first introduced to biblical teaching on justice and had my own heart softened for the poor, as my understanding of God’s desire to see them lifted up and protected deepened. I’m thankful to be working for an organisation taking this biblical call seriously, who are standing in the gap for the poor and showing grace in helping them find a fresh start. A passage I’ve come to love since working at CAP is 1 Samuel 2 v 8. The Message version translates it like this “He puts poor people on their feet again; he rekindles burned out lives with fresh hope, restoring dignity and respect to their lives – a place in the sun!’ God is not close-fisted nor begrudging with His grace; in Him we have the perfect picture of what generosity looks like and how we can follow. This is a picture of what God has done in my life and the continual fresh start Jesus offers us.
* The name has been changed for confidentiality purposes.