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Author: UnitingWorld

An estimated 202,000 people are experiencing poverty in Bali, and as COVID-19 continues to take its toll, that number is only expected to rise. With limited funding going to local governments, many people struggle to access the housing, electricity, water and other basic services they need. But for the most vulnerable groups, including women and people with disabilities, their voices often go unheard in village decision-making processes, further compounding the challenges they face.

That’s why UnitingWorld is working with Maha Bhoga Marga Foundation (MBM) to build the confidence and skills of vulnerable groups to participate in village governance and advocate for their rights.

By equipping vulnerable people to monitor the funds allocated to their village through the Village Development Program, and investing in vocational training, health services and grassroots advocacy, this project has seen greater representation of women, people with disabilities and poor families in targeted villages and increased distribution of local government budgets towards their specific needs.

Across 29 villages, at least 13,300 people now benefit from this work. Kadek is one of them. With the support of MBM and UnitingWorld, Kadek advocated on behalf of a group poor families to receive goats and pig cages so they could earn a living. Doubling his income through the program, Kadek has now bought a home for his family and is ready to send his two children to college.

“Before joining in a group, I never attended or being invited in any village meetings,” Kadek said. “Now, I am invited as a group leader. My confidence is growing since I also received some training from MBM and I often lead group meetings.”

Photo caption: UnitingWorld partner MBM hosts monthly group meetings for community members who are often overlooked, providing training and technical assistance to help them participate in village governance.

Read more about this project

 

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP). Thanks to ANCP, we’re  making a huge difference together; lifting families out of poverty and helping people  improve their lives.

Our neighbours need your help.

Kengen was eight months pregnant when armed men attacked her village in South Sudan. She managed to escape with her life and delivered her baby in the bushes. 

But there was no home to return to, and Kengen’s farm and harvest were destroyed.  

Now, unable to produce enough milk without a food source or home, Kengen is afraid that she won’t be able to feed her baby daughter. 

And she’s not the only one. 

Right now, an estimated 49 million people are on the brink of famine.  

Conflict, COVID-19, climate shocks and now the war in Ukraine have created the perfect storm for an unprecedented global hunger crisis. 

From South Sudan to Afghanistan, Syria to Yemen, this is a crisis like we’ve never seen before. And with COVID-19 doubling the number of people living with life-threatening hunger, the worst may be yet to come. 

That’s why we need your help. 

Together with a coalition of community and humanitarian organisations, we need you to join us in calling on our new federal government to help fight famine. 

We encourage you to contact your local federal member and urge them to: 

  1. Save lives now through an urgent Famine Prevention Package of $150 million to avert catastrophe in the worst-affected hunger spots in the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. 
  1. Tackle the root causes of the global hunger crisis through investing in a long-term targeted Global Food Strategy. 
  1. Strengthen the resilience of the Asia Pacific region to climate change, disasters, and economic shocks by increasing Australia’s development assistance. 

We know that together our voices can make a big difference in the lives of our neighbours just like Kengen.  

Click here to write to your MP and learn more about the campaign.

*Story provided by Micah Australia 

If you have strong governance experience, a love for social justice and want to make a contribution with profound impact, you may find this a richly rewarding opportunity.

We are seeking expressions of interest from people who would like to join the UnitingWorld Board in the role of Chairperson. Our current Chair needs to step down from the role due to a change in their personal circumstances, so we are seeking someone to lead our Board in its vital role of strategy and governance.

UnitingWorld is a small high-energy organisation that punches way above its weight in transformative international development. We have a highly engaged skills-based Board, with members who are diverse in their personal and professional backgrounds, as well as gender, age and ethnicity. The Chair of the Board leads the work of the Board, creating space for innovation in strategy and diligence in governance.

If you:

  • are a member of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA)
  • have some years of governance experience, and
  • have a few hours a month you can devote to supporting UnitingWorld

you may be a good fit for this role.

Beyond a track record of Board level leadership, experience in any of following would be highly valuable:

  • international aid and development
  • international church to church relationships
  • government relations and advocacy
  • institutional fundraising
  • leadership and networks within the UCA.

About UnitingWorld

UnitingWorld is an agency of the UCA. We collaborate internationally to address the causes and consequences of poverty, injustice, and violence. We work with partners in Asia, Africa and in the Pacific in poverty alleviation, gender equality, disaster readiness and leadership development.

We work with and through churches, but our programs include all people regardless of their faith, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, or gender. Our programs are initiated and implemented by our partners.

We translate rigorous sustainable community development principles through the lens of our Christian faith. We help to build leadership and organisational capacity. We partner for the long haul. We strive to build an international community, helping connect our partners with each other and our own church.

We maintain the highest standards for international development in Australia by being a member of the Australian Council of International Development (ACFID), a signatory of their Code of Conduct, and by being accredited by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to receive Australian Aid funding. We are also members of the Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA), and of the international ACT Alliance network.

You will be required to implement and adhere to the agency’s policies and procedures in compliance with the DFAT and ACFID code of conduct, and follow FIA and Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) requirements.

More information

About the UnitingWorld Board

About the role of Chair

Our latest Annual Report

Please send your resume and expression of interest to EA@unitingworld.org.au at your earliest convenience.

During the worst economic crisis in Sri Lanka’s history, our partners have been reaching out to help vulnerable communities.

With inflation now above 50%, the cost of everyday goods like food, fuel and medicine has skyrocketed. Essential services have shut down and there have been widespread power cuts. As frustrations boil over and protests escalate, our partner, the Methodist Church Sri Lanka (MCSL), has called for people to refrain from violence and called on leaders to facilitate a swift return to electoral democracy (read full statement).

The human suffering is difficult to comprehend.

Early in the crisis, our partners pledged to do everything in their means to alleviate suffering.

They’ve been doing exactly that. Much of it is happening through Deaf Link and the disability outreach work of the church.

Established by MCSL, Deaf Link is a centre committed to providing access to education for children with disabilities and occupational training to adults with disabilities.

Despite the difficulties of public transport, the Deaf Link team of Rev Gnanarajah and Rev Kandeepan were able to travel in June to visit participants of the Empowering People with Disabilities project in rural areas identified as most vulnerable. They delivered dry ration packs to project participants and to other families identified as needing assistance.

“Due to the present economic crisis in our Island, many people are affected,” said Rev Kandeepan.

“We gave help according to our capacity, but the local Rural Development Society said there are many more families who need help. Hopefully more can be provided as soon as possible.”

“Those who received dry ration packs expressed their gratitude to Deaf Link  and UnitingWorld,” said Rev Kandeepan.

The Deaf Link team also visited self-help groups run by the project, which connect people with disabilities to share knowledge and encourage each other through the crisis. The project also promotes home gardening by providing seeds, training and assistance to market their produce.

A member of the self-help group who lost one of his hands during the civil war was keen to show his home garden and how he can cultivate it with just one hand (pictured right).

The Deaf Link team were planning to visit projects in the Eastern Province this month, but due to exorbitant costs of transport they instead met with the Coordinator in the region to get updates.

Please pray for their important work.

You can help our partners reach the most vulnerable during this unprecedented crisis. All funds raised will support the work of the Methodist Church Sri Lanka providing assistance through through their church and community networks.

People with disabilities are some of the most vulnerable people in Sri Lanka. Without support, disabilities can become a huge barrier to accessing appropriate education, employment and full participation in community life. Because of this, people with disabilities are up to five times more likely to live below the poverty line.

The Deaf Link project mentioned is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and impacted the lives of 2,625 people with disabilities in Sri Lanka in FY 2020-21.

More

Previous Update from Partners in Sri Lanka

Calls for prayer as Sri Lanka faces deepening economic crisis

 

Have you ever reflected on what vulnerability and courage looks like in your life? Here are some excerpts of what one of the students from our Women in Ministry project, Rev. Geraldine from Fiji had to say as she gave her sermon on Genesis 16:1-15.

Genesis 16:1-15 (NRSV)

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave whose name was Hagar, and Sarai said to Abram, “You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my slave to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Your slave is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her.

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.” The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.” And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Now you have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael, for the Lord has given heed to your affliction. He shall be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall live at odds with all his kin.”

So she named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are El-roi,” for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

Rev. Geraldine giving a sermon.

Rev. Geraldine’s Reflection

“Vulnerability – the state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. It is that feeling of uneasiness when we are not in our comfort zone or when we lose control. For example, taking risks that might lead to rejection, talking about our mistakes, or facing difficult emotions like fear and shame. However, vulnerability is powerful. Brene Brown said, ‘Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerability is risky. But not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love, intimacy and belonging.’

“Hagar entered the story as a vulnerable character. This was the first time she spoke in the story. She had no voice, a woman-servant, and an object for another’s command. But when she and her son were banished, and had to step out of her ‘comfort zone’ and journeyed into the wilderness, it symbolized the recognition of herself as a human being, an individual, rather than a property. It is an act of challenging the status quo that continues to dehumanize people.

“Being vulnerable maybe seen as a weakness but it is a strength. It is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love. Let us not forget to teach our students the value and the foundation of our faith.

“The wilderness presents a new perspective of seeing God’s covenant not only descending from a male but also from a woman, Hagar. Through Hagar, Ishmael found his place as a freed, courageous child who grew through the arms of her mother.

“Engaging with communities is risky and dangerous. We are submitting ourselves to more disagreements and headaches. But Hagar’s story reminded us that being courageous does not mean walking alone but rather walking with God.

“The belief in one God – monotheism – was more than simply the belief in one God. Because each human was in His image, and because each could be in direct relationship with Him, the individual was suddenly given significance – not just fathers but also mothers, and not just parents but also children. No longer were they fused into a single unit, with a single controlling will. They were each to become persons in their own right, with their own identity and integrity.

“Such changes do not happen overnight, and they do not happen without wrenching dislocations. That is what is happening at both ends of the Abraham story. At the beginning of his mission, Abraham was told to separate himself from his father, and towards the end he was told to separate himself, in different ways, from each of his two sons. These painful episodes represent the agonising birth-pangs of a new way of thinking about humanity.

“First separate, then connect. That is how God created the universe, by first separating domains – day and night, upper and lower waters, sea and dry land – then allowing them to be filled. And that is how we create real personal relationships. By separating and leaving space for the other. Parents should not seek to control children. Spouses should not seek to control one another. It is the carefully calibrated distance between us in which relationship allows each party to grow.

“As Matthew Syed (2017) said, ‘Letting go – that is the essential paradox of parenthood. You care, you nurture, you sacrifice, and then you watch as the little ones fly into the great unknown, often shouting recriminations as they depart. You will experience the stomach clenching pain of separation, but you do so with a smile and a hug, aware that the desire to protect and love must never morph into the tyranny of mollycoddling.’

“Hagar’s story in the wilderness, is the story about the birth of the individual. There must be separation for such momentous change to happen. But the story is also about God teaching us the delicate art of making space, without which no true individuality can grow. In the lovely words of the Irish poet John O’Donohue, our challenge is: ‘To bless the space between us.’”

With your help, Rev. Geraldine is receiving support through our Women in Ministry project. With this, Geraldine and women across the Pacific can receive the theological training and discipleship they need to lead within their communities. Click here to read the latest project update.

Read the latest Women in Ministry project update

Right on the India-Pakistan border, there’s a village of about 600 people. They’re hard-working and creative but overlooked by government for basic services like clean water and education. Families struggle to provide enough food for themselves, and education and employment opportunities do not come by often.

During India’s Delta wave of COVID-19 last year, the lockdowns were crippling for the village.

Those who were day labourers lost their jobs. Families despaired that with schools closed, their children would fall behind in their education, closing off a vital path out of poverty.

Our partner, the Church of North India through the Amritsar Diocese, stepped into the breach.

They got special permits to travel to the village to find out who needed help and why. And they set about casting their stones across the water to create ripples of change that continue today.

For one family, the project workers were a lifeline.

Ranjit and her two sons were struggling to find enough to eat, elder son Yash (pictured) had no work and younger son Patel was finding it almost impossible to keep up with his schooling.

Three years earlier, Ranjit’s husband had died, leaving the family without income. Ranjit is partly paralysed and has never been able to work, and there was no way for either of her sons to contribute because of the lockdowns and job losses.

Ranjit’s youngest son Patel had been invited to attend an education centre run by the Church. Education workers followed him up and discovered that his family had no food or medical supplies, and no source of income. They first provided immediate assistance: meals, information about the pandemic, masks and soap.

After providing emergency relief, CNI sat down with Ranjit to find out what they could do beyond just a band-aid solution.

They helped her to access a widow’s pension, something Ranjit had been trying to do on her own for three years without success. They were also able to get support for her sons: continuing education assistance for her youngest Patel through the study centre, and an employment opportunity for her eldest son, Yash.

It’s just one of thousands of examples of how your support makes lasting ripples of change alongside our partners.

CNI staff returned to the village recently to check in on how the family and others there are doing. Ranjit and her sons told them they’re feeling grateful for the support and hopeful for the future.

“We are very thankful to the Church and project staff who have been so kind to me and my family when we were in so much trouble,” Ranjit says. “I had tried so many sources to get the pension but everything failed. Now we have both education and income to help run the family.”

Click here to read more about the impact of this project.

Across the Pacific, Asia and Africa, this is the approach our partners are taking to transform their communities. They seek out the most vulnerable. They sit with them, learn about their lives and build relationships. If they can find a way to help, they go about leveraging skills and resources to make a long-term impact.

Throughout COVID-19 and other disasters before it, our partners have stayed at the frontlines, risking their lives to serve communities fighting fear, starvation, economic ruin and disease. They have lost leaders, friends and family to COVID-19, but despite the adversities they were able to impact the lives of 464,495 people across our programs last year.

Right now is an especially powerful time to stand in solidarity with our partners and support our shared mission.

As a partner of the Australian Government, we can access funding each year to implement poverty alleviation, gender equality and climate change projects overseas. But we need your help to do it.

We have committed to contribute at least $1 for every $5 we can access in government funding, which means right now your gift goes up to six times as far helping us extend the reach of our programs.

You can help us create more ripples of change by giving a gift today. Together, our impact spreads far and wide and changes lives in so many ways.

Click here to donate now.

Photos by CNI project staff

The Women in Ministry project supports women in the Pacific to study theology and seek ordination, equipping them for leadership in the Church and community.

UnitingWorld’s Mardi Lumsden and Tanya Lee Fenwick have prepared an update about the scholars currently supported.

“Our determined and resilient scholars have hit the ground running in Semester One. This is the first time all our students have been undertaking post-graduate study. It is a testament to their determination and the support of their churches. We also have some wonderful news to share about past students’ success. In this update, we have included video links with greetings from Rev Geraldine and 2021 graduate Asinate, as well as current student profiles. We encourage you to print these profiles and display them to remind you or your congregation of the women you are supporting. Your support, both financial and prayerful, is so important to the students, their churches and the team at UnitingWorld.”

Click here read the full update.

Download the student profiles (great prompts to learn about and pray for the scholars)

Thanks to everyone who celebrated our global neighbours with us during Lent.

Here’s what a few people had to say:

“The Seven Days booklet is one of the best and well-put together resources I’ve come across in 30 years of ministry. The layout, content and information are all spot on and really useful for church members to engage with.” Reverend Scott Litchfield, Bridgewater Uniting Church.

“The ‘Action for the Day’ items are excellent; achievable and interesting. In fact, we have actioned the Day 5 activity – when 50 ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers in Penguin were isolated due to COVID-19 in their accommodation, we approached all the churches in Penguin and they gave generously. This enabled us to buy the workers treats: biscuits, chocolates, groceries and bags of rice. We then asked our ni-Vanuatu friends to join us and sing at our celebration at the end of the Seven Days of Solidarity.” Jeanne Koetsier, Penguin Uniting Church, Tasmania.

Did you run Seven Days of Solidarity with your congregation and use the resources? We’d love to hear your feedback! Please click here to complete a short survey.

If you’ve not already had a chance to check it out, why not join us celebrating where God is alive and at work in the world? We promise you’ll be encouraged by the people you meet and their stories. You can do it any time in the year, as a church community or by yourself.

Visit www.sevendaysofsolidarity.com.au for stories, video, a sermon, prayers and a stunning original song written and performed by Roxanne McLeod and talented UCA musicians (check it out below).

We’ve been blown away by your response to help our neighbours in Tonga after the devastating volcano and tsunami that hit in January. Our partners the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (FWCT) immediately rolled out the Tekina ‘I Moana initiative, the disaster management and recovery arm of the church. Your support helped our partners to visit eight villages in the hardest-hit areas across Tongatapu and the Ha’apai islands to provide essentials like food, clothes, and shelter, as well as disaster chaplains to offer counselling and spiritual encouragement to those displaced by the tsunami.

Surveys were conducted during the visits to evaluate the loss and damage, although it was recognised that for many people it was too soon to even contemplate their future needs. Our partners say it meant a lot to the communities that the church visited them so soon after the disaster.

Disaster preparation helping long-term recovery

Back in 2018, UnitingWorld supported FWCT to build and stock a large storage facility for building materials (pictured) to be able to begin repairs to damaged buildings quickly after disasters rather than having to wait for supplies to be shipped in from outside. It was used for Cyclone Harold and is now being used for reconstruction work on the most affected homes.

 

Your support means UnitingWorld can help re-stock this facility and ensure significant reconstruction of destroyed homes and public buildings.

Going forward, your gifts will enable the FWCT to provide urgently needed supplies of small boats, tents, temporary toilets, school bags, basic tools, petrol, generators, water tanks and fishing gear to island communities whose homes were destroyed. Thank you so much!

Please continue to pray for the response efforts. A COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent restrictions on movement have hampered visits to the affected areas, needs assessments and the overall recovery.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. Soaring inflation has caused devastating shortages of food, medicine and fuel, as well as power cuts across the country. Months of street protests have followed.

The Prime Minster Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned this week, and a nation-wide curfew has been put in place to try to curb the escalating protests.

Our partners the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka (MCSL) have been outspoken about the failings of the government and recently pledged to do everything in their means to alleviate suffering.

In another statement released this week, MCSL describes the situation as one of “immense suffering and hardship” leading to a feeling of “hopelessness among all our people.”

They urge the government to end the party politicking and seek greater unity to bring an end to the crisis.

“We appeal to all citizens of our country to be united, rooted in principles of non-violence and to extend care and love to our fellow beings as they go through immense hardships. Let us work together to bring our beloved country out of the current economic downfall,” read the statement.

“We as a Church Commit ourselves to do all within our means to alleviate the sufferings of the people and to create a new political culture for which we will pray and ceaselessly work for.”

Click here to read the full statement (released 9 May 2022)

We stand with them in prayer and solidarity.

UnitingWorld staff have reached out to our partners MCSL and Deaf Link offering support. We stand ready to respond.

Deaf Link Consultant Rev Samuel Gnanarajah says he is keeping in touch with the project field staff and is planning to visit people with disabilities supported through the project as soon as possible. He also asks us to pray for his nation.

Uniting Church in Australia President Reverend Sharon Hollis has previously encouraged UCA members to pray for Sri Lanka.

“We’re deeply concerned by what is happening in Sri Lanka and by what we’re hearing from our church partners and Sri Lankan-Australian members of the UCA,” said Rev Hollis.

“The situation is dire. We must pray in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka suffering through this crisis, as well as Sri Lankan Australians who are concerned for their country, families and friends.”