Faithwriters.com challenge – 12th January 2017 – Topic: Fresh start – 2nd Place
The room gradually filled with a hubbub of conversation, old ties being renewed and new connections made. A couple of hundred representatives of charitable organisations had gathered at parliament to celebrate achievements and receive inspiration for the coming year. I met people I’d never normally encounter: the information technologist for a small medical charity, the CEO of an overseas aid organisation and a tax accountant working mainly with religious groups. Each talked of mundane matters yet with passionate ambition to grow the mission of their organisations.
We were called to order by the host politician, who spoke warmly and briefly of the positive impact of charities on his community, before giving way to the main speakers.
We sipped fruit juice and nibbled tiny snacks as the chief executive of the national umbrella body for voluntary organisations spoke enthusiastically of the strong public support of charitable bodies within the country and warned of the need for fresh thinking as the purse strings were ever more firmly tightened. We listened politely but with little surprise to a message that simply echoed our own experiences.
As the next speaker began to describe the horrors with which her charity contended, the room fell silent. The litany of abuse directed at women from ethnic minority groups, and the numbers involved shocked everyone present. The level of support to help women rebuild their lives, offered in upwards of 14 national languages and dialects, conducted in secret to protect the women from their families and communities by workers who were themselves threatened drew some tears and warm sustained applause.
But the best reception was for the last speaker, a nervous young man in his twenties. Unused to public speaking, he talked simply and plainly about a life of family tragedy, abuse, addictions, lost education and time in prison. Yet he stood before us, a representative of the hundreds assisted by a charity who had now offered him a job helping others overcome the same obstacles. His testimony of transformation was greeted with hooting, hollering and rousing applause.
For this is why we wrestle with funding issues, struggle to develop passionate, well-equipped teams, and work long hours in unforgiving or risky circumstances: to walk alongside tired, frightened, weary people who have lost hope, until they are ready to make a fresh start. It’s why we do what we do, and we love it.