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Imagine living in a rural village of about 250 people. It’s been your home since birth, and each day follows the simple but tough life of subsistence farming. Access to health services, education, and employment opportunities is severely limited, so, like everyone here, you make a living off the land and strive to give your children the opportunities that you didn’t have.

But for four to five months of every year, the dry season and erratic rainfall make it impossible to grow your crops. When the seasonal drought hits and there isn’t enough water for farming, you and every working-aged person along with your families must migrate far away from home to try to find work to survive. The village becomes practically deserted, leaving only the elderly. Think of what this instability does to your children’s education and the development of your community!

This was the case for a village in Sarenga, West Bengal before our partners the Church of North India (CNI) through the Diocese of Durgapur asked how they could help.

The villagers’ request was a simple one: find a way to put in place a sustainable source of crop irrigation that doesn’t dry up when the rain stops and the local streams become empty.

Thanks to the generosity of UnitingWorld supporters, our partners were able to purchase and install two submersible pumps that can channel large volumes of water across long distances. The new sources of irrigation mean that the community can continue farming throughout the year and not have to travel away and work for others to earn a living. Summer in Sarenga this year has the usual erratic rainfall and dryness. But due to this project, we know that there is now an entire village of people who no longer have to uproot their lives for months at a time and who are hard at work contributing to their families and community.

UnitingWorld’s Program Manager Shreshtha Kumar visited the village this year and was blown away by the complete turnaround described by the people.

It’s so heart-warming to see how the village has become a self-sufficient community. The people can now rely on far better food security and the whole life of the village is benefitting.

Our partners are also helping the community to access high-quality education through their study centre and self-help groups, teaching skills to people to help them develop extra sources of income and pathways to career opportunities.

This is how our partners are making incredible change in 26 rural villages across Sarenga and Ranibandh provinces as well as in two urban slums in Durgapur. These communities are extremely poor and marginalised but are on the way to having more sustainable, healthy and hopeful futures thanks to the love and support of our partners.

This project is such an inspiring example of the life-changing work that UnitingWorld and our supporters get to be a part of, and it’s a testament to our belief that just a few small interventions—guided by communities themselves—can lead to radically positive and long-term change for so many people.

As part of Lent Event, we’re fundraising to support this work that is changing lives and transforming communities in India and beyond. Will you help us reach our goal? Your gift will go a very long way to helping so many people and communities lead lives of dignity and hope.

Durgapur Sewing Centre for Adolescent Girls and Married Women

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.

 

“I want to become a basketball champion when I grow up!” said Lakshmi* when asked about her aspirations for future.

Like Lakshmi, many adolescent girls living in the Durgapur slum community want to pursue careers that defy gender norms and stereotypes. She attends a study centre that is part of the Community Development Program run by our partner, the Diocese of Durgapur. The study centre provides the girls with a safe space to learn, connect, practice extracurricular activities, and share their goals and aspirations for the future with their mentors.

Places like these are so valuable in India, allowing those who are traditionally excluded from opportunities to grow and develop into adulthood. Religious and caste discrimination is one of the leading causes of poverty and social exclusion in India, and this project exists to empower marginalised and economically disadvantaged communities by improving access to quality education, health services, livelihoods and government entitlements.

Looking at the unique needs of adolescents and youth, the project is now looking to expand its scope to include health, education, and career counselling to improve opportunities and prospects for young people.

This happens thanks to our generous supporters! The sale of Everything in Common ‘schoolbooks’ cards enables this project to grow and these girls to pursue their dreams.

Beyond the study centres, we’re supporting the Diocese of Durgapur to offer skills training to marginalised women and farmers so they can build sustainable incomes close to where they live, as well as providing communities with access to and information about a range of government services and schemes.

Thanks to UnitingWorld supporters, our partners are helping communities to become empowered, organised, educated and healthy, involved in local governance and capable of accessing government services and schemes. The project impacted the lives of more than 4,000 people in the last financial year.

*Name changed for privacy

If you want to support the study centres in Durgapur and give the gift of a brighter future for girls like Lakshmi, you can buy the ‘schoolbooks’ e-card or print-at-home card here or make a donation here.

From Dr Sureka Goringe, National Director, UnitingWorld

There’s change in the air. Maybe you feel it. For the longest time, an elephant in the room of Australia’s contributions to end world poverty has been the question: what about the struggles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here at home?

This was a challenge and reminder posed to the whole UnitingWorld team by Professor Anne Pattel-Gray, UCA theologian and Aboriginal leader, who was a special guest presenter at our annual team week in February.

Her words were not bitter or angry, they were deeply introspective, herself having travelled to do mission and community development work among Dalit peoples in India. While there, she was struck by her relative privilege, and realised how difficult it can be when you are well-meaning, but ultimately have little connection to people’s unique experiences of poverty, racism and injustice.

It led her to focus on what Christianity has to say about the value and dignity of all life, and the call on Christians to be a “transforming presence” from inside the dominant system – to turn oppression and domination into  justice.

It’s a calling to work that has no borders or postcodes because it’s about who we are.

Her words made me think of you, and the thousands of people touched by this mission we do in partnership with the global church. In our constantly changing world, we can’t pit local and global issues against each other – we need to address suffering and injustice wherever we can, with whatever skills we can bring.

The young leaders who attended the Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit understand this, and their commitment to embedding justice for First Peoples within their vision of our region is truly inspiring.

Our international partners understand it too, always eager to meet, honour and gain the wisdom of the First Peoples who cared for this land for millennia.

We’ve started a conversation within UnitingWorld about how to strengthen links between our partners and Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) and embed a First Nations perspective into our work.

Change is happening in our government too, with the search for an Ambassador for First Nations People going on as I write.

As the national conversation about Voice, Treaty and Truth goes forward, I hope and pray that whatever happens, we Christians would strive to be that “transforming presence” alongside First Peoples that Professor Pattel‑Gray described.

When I asked her what gives her hope for the change she works for, she gave my whole team this encouragement: “my hope comes from the Creator, who has the power to transform people and communities.”

Amen

Representatives from eight of our partner churches in the Pacific and young people from the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) were part of the inaugural Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit (PAELS), held in Canberra in December 2022.

100 young people from 14 countries were brought together by Micah Australia* and the Pacific Conference of Churches to build relationships and advocate for the issues that matter to them.

Through the generosity of UnitingWorld supporters, we were able to sponsor two young women from our partner church in West Papua to join the delegation. They shared powerful stories from their homeland during the Summit, and also visited a Uniting Church in Canberra that is home to a large West Papuan diaspora.

The first two days of PAELS were led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders. The delegates spent the first two days listening, learning, sharing their cultures and experiences and being trained and equipped for political advocacy. The deep conversations and learning from First Peoples continued as the delegates were invited to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, where they received a generous welcome and storytelling from Elders.

Then over two days in Parliament House, delegates met with 84 Members of Parliament. The vision that the PAELS delegation brought to their meetings in Parliament was:

… to see healthy environments, empowered young people, and flourishing communities across the Pacific region. This is a vision that will only be realised in full when communities enjoy self-determination and when no one is left behind.

During the meetings, delegates shared their personal stories and heard from our nation’s leaders about their own experiences and hopes for our region.

UnitingWorld partner networking

PAELS was also a chance for representatives from our partner churches from Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and West Papua to meet with UCA and UAICC members.

Below we share what some of the young leaders had to say about PAELS and the future.

Raúl Sugunananthan

Uniting Church in Australia

“Connecting with leaders from across Australia and the Pacific was such a valuable experience because it showed me the vibrancy and diversity of the church beyond my Inner-West Sydney bubble.

Through the amazing young leaders I met, I learnt first-hand that God is moving through the leadership of First Nations communities  from Arnhem Land to Sydney.

God is moving through the Pasifika songs and stories woven throughout their island nations and diaspora communities.

God is moving through the courage and determination of people striving for self-determination across our region.”

Tetavaa Namoto

Tuvalu Christian Church

“It was such a great experience to share some of the issues affecting my home and our islands. We have experienced cyclones, drought, climate change and sea‑level rise. They say we can migrate, but I don’t want to be a refugee. I think that when we lose our land, we would lose our culture too. We pray, pray, pray that climate change won’t happen and won’t affect future generations.

I love meeting other young people [at events like this] because we can share stories and it makes me realise there are more people struggling and also working for change.”

Hayden Charles

Wiradjuri man and Uniting Church in Australia member

“I had the privilege to be in a group with members from Sydney and Kiribati to share our vision of the region with four parliamentarians. Our shared vision will be the focus of the world in a couple of years and that’s why we started these conversations in 2022.

I hope we as leaders in the Pacific will work side-by-side to keep the conversations at the forefront of these parliamentarians and keep working to build sustainable partnerships in our region.

I would like to thank the team at Micah and all the partners that helped bring together this amazing group of young leaders.”

Grace Talei Tuiono

Fijian-Australian Uniting Church in Australia member

“No one has the same story. Every story is unique in their own way, and every voice is important. I want to use my voice to tell people of different abilities that they matter.

And as a young woman, I want to tell the world, ‘You can do it! You have skills and abilities to contribute.’ I learned that perspective from my mother and father, who’ve never just seen my disability – they see God in me.

I am so grateful that God gave me a voice to share here at Parliament and make a difference. Not everybody gets that opportunity. I may fall, I may fail, but God gave me the ability and a choice to take it. And when I take it, I believe God will provide for me along the way.”

* Who is Micah Australia?

Micah Australia is a coalition of churches and Christian organisations raising a powerful voice for justice and a world free from poverty. UnitingWorld is a member of Micah Australia.

Where can I find more info about PAELS?

The Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit was an initiative funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Office of the Pacific and coordinated by Micah Australia.

Discussions at PAELS focused on key development priorities identified by research (surveys and conversations) among Pacific delegates prior to the Summit. The findings were summarised in the report The Pacific We See, which was available to delegates and MPs during the event. You can read it for yourself here.

If you are interested in attending PAELS 2023, register your interest by emailing marcusc@unitingworld.org.au

Group photos by Amelia Dorey for Micah Australia. Individual photos by UnitingWorld staff.

Applications are invited for a volunteer Administration Assistant, supporting our International Programs team.

Purpose of the Position:
This role will provide administrative support in preparation for our upcoming DFAT re-accreditation assessment.

Workload:
Flexible depending on availability.

However, given the time investment to train a volunteer, we would need a minimum commitment of approximately 120 hours. This can be 8-10 hours, ideally across two days per week for up to 12 weeks, or this could take the form of intensive blocks across 2-4 weeks.

This volunteer role could suit students looking for office experience, parents considering returning to the workplace, career changers seeking insight into work in the Not-for-Profit sector, or late-career professionals wanting to do community service.

See the Position Description for more information.

To apply, please email your cover letter and resume to Mya Rae myar@unitingworld.org.au

UnitingWorld has launched an appeal to support ACT Alliance partners in Türkiye and Syria responding to the earthquake crisis. 

On 6 February 2023, a series of devastating earthquakes hit southeast Türkiye and northern Syria causing widespread damage. At least 33,000 people were killed and more than a million people are now living in temporary shelters. 

Rescuers are still searching rubble for survivors, but hopes are fading and the death toll is expected to rise.

The Government of Türkiye said this week that about 80,000 people are in hospital, and more than a million have been made homeless and are taking refuge from the bitter cold. In addition to the freezing conditions, food and water and appropriate shelter are becoming scarce and increasingly difficult to access. 

You can help get critical aid to people in affected communities.

Click here to donate now.

Your donation will support churches working together through ACT Alliance to assist people in Syria and Türkiye. Donations made here will be directed to ACT Alliance members in the region to provide this much needed humanitarian support. 

Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible in Australia. Please give generously.

With everything going on in the world, it’s easy to feel powerless. The challenges are huge.  

But here’s the thing: by supporting UnitingWorld, you’re part of a global movement working together to change lives – including yours! Because when we work for change, we ourselves are changes. 

Lent is coming. It’s a 40-day season to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, seeking to practice a life focused on prayer, simplicity and generosity. It’s a precious opportunity to step back from the noise, take some intentional time to fix our hearts on what we can do to love our neighbours and heal our hurting world. 

Join us for Lent Event 2023

Pray – Use our prayer guide to pray alongside our partners as they address the challenges facing their communities. 

Live simply - Give up something in solidarity with people who have less. 

Give - Donate or fundraise to help our partners fighting poverty and injustice.   

This is the difference you can make

$25 can provide nutritious food to kids in Timor-Leste. 
$50 can help a family start pig breeding in Indonesia. 
$100 can provide job opportunities and education for a person with a disability in Sri Lanka. 
$500 can send a girl to school in India. 
$1,000 can supply clean water for a village in Papua New Guinea.

Join Lent Event

 


Kim’s Story

Kim is a youth leader and champion of bringing clean water and sanitation education to where it’s most needed in remote Papua New Guinea. 

“When we build clean water infrastructure on our church or school properties, we always try to put it in the middle of the island so people can stop by on their way to town to get water,” Kim told us.   

“We try to do things in ways that ensure everyone in the community benefits.”  

Kim is making waves in his community with the support of people like you. Read his full story here. 

This is what happens when we choose to walk hand in hand with our neighbours. Together, we can change lives. 

Will you join us?

Make a difference

“When I was a child, I would sit on my mother’s lap and she would tell me the stories of our people. It meant that my whole life I’ve known who I am because I know my story. 

“I’m so grateful for it because today it’s fading away. It’s harder for young people because of the noise of modern life.” 

Ever since I heard this from Kim Allen (pictured), a youth leader with our partner, the United Church in Papua New Guinea, I can’t get it out of my mind. I think it’s because his words transcend his culture and speak into our current moment in time.   

At just 28 years old, Kim is responsible for around five thousand youth across almost ten remote islands. He acts as a facilitator to connect youth to the work of the church.  

“The challenges we’re facing are school dropouts, unemployment, early marriage and the impacts of climate change,” he told me.  But the underlying problem affecting young people today is what he describes as ‘noise’.  

“Young people are exposed to so much noise, with the internet, mobile phones, drugs, peer pressure, music. They can’t focus.”  

I asked Kim how he and his church are addressing it: 

“The first step is to help them be aware of themselves and their lives as children of God,” Kim said. “With that awareness we can then meet them at a practical level, training them to be good citizens, to work against violence, to build up their communities. The church gives them hope and a solid foundation to be human. We see that as intrinsic to spiritual development.”  

I think we can all relate to that feeling of too much noise in our busy, modern world. I love that Kim’s antidote is having greater awareness of who we are as children of God as a first step to refocusing our lives.   

I know I don’t have to tell you how powerful that idea is, but I always find the reminder encouraging. When we see ourselves and others as created children of God, infinitely loved and valuable, our hearts are changed. We can’t ignore the cries of people suffering in poverty and injustice. We long to make a difference, and through God and God’s people, we find the power to do it.  

I hope, like me, you find strength and encouragement in that thought, because it’s a critical time to play your part, however you can. Here at UnitingWorld and across our church, we do that together during Lent with Lent Event. We reach out to others through prayer, living more simply and practising generosity.  

It’s such a powerful time! 

Pray – Use our prayer guide to pray alongside our partners as they address the challenges facing their communities. 

Live simply - Give up something in solidarity with people who have less. 

Give - Donate or fundraise to help our partners fighting poverty and injustice.   

Every prayer, action and gift make a difference, and not just for people overcoming poverty. Because when we work for change, we too are changed.  

I hope you’ll join us for Lent Event this year as we seek to refocus our lives through prayer, simplicity and generosity.  In 2023, Lent is from 22 February to 6 April.

Head to www.lentevent.com.au today to get started.  

In hope and gratitude,  

Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director, UnitingWorld

We asked some of our partners participating in our recent South East Asia partners conference what they would like to share with UnitingWorld supporters.


Julio Da Costa
Protestant Church in Timor-Leste (IPTL)

“Thank you so much to the Uniting Church in Australia for your support and friendship. We have been in partnership for a long time, back before the independence of Timor-Leste, and we are very grateful. Please continue to pray for us and please continue to work with us so that one day we can be independent in terms of finances, human resources and other things that we need. I would like to say thank you and may God continue to bless you and give you a long life to enjoy.


Rev Grietje (Grace) Monim
Evangelical Christian Church in Tanah Papua (GKI-TP)

Thank you for your partnership and supporting the economic development of women in Papua. I’m passionate about raising up women in leadership in ways that are respectful of culture. That’s important. Working in mutual partnership allows us to lead a cultural transformation on gender equality rather than outsiders telling us what to do. Partnership can start with economic development, but must lead to sharing information, knowledge, and getting different perspectives.”


Marisa Christine
Christian Evangelical Church in Timor (GMIT)

“Partnership with UnitingWorld means we can make a bigger impact in our communities. The more people we can include the more our program will be successful! I would like to say thank you so much to all the supporters in Australia for helping us for so long, and for giving assistance beyond material. Prayer and technical assistance give us hope for us to help other people. On behalf of people of West Timor, TLM and GMIT, thank you so much for your help.”


Bishop Nyoman Agustinus
Protestant Christian Church in Bali (GKPB)

“I do hope this relationship will grow and grow with UnitingWorld, the Uniting Church and our partners across Indonesia and Asia. I believe that because we share the same heart for people who are needy, we are going to strengthen our relationship to each other. On behalf of the Protestant Church in Bali, our members and the people we serve, from the bottom of our heart thank you so much for the support and prayers you send. They really do help us in Bali, thank you.”


 

Methodist Church in Fiji Circuit Minister, Rev Uluilakeba Ligiraki, was one of 26 leaders who attended a workshop on Gender Equality Theology, run by the church in partnership with  UnitingWorld.

He found the training confronting, challenging his whole perspective about gender and what the Bible has to say about positive human relationships.

“I used to have the perspective of male‑dominant rule in the family, and issues of gender were confronting to me, but after the workshop my perspective of seeing things changed,” said Rev  Ligiraki.

“It drastically changed my thoughts and behaviour. Before, I used to see household chores as female work but now my wife is happy to see me helping her out in washing the dishes, ironing my children’s uniforms in the morning, cooking and other little tasks. My wife has spoken to me about the changes that she has seen in my life, and [that] she is happy about it. I really thank God for that.”

This change of perspective has also become a part of his preaching and work as a Circuit Minister.

“I now view violence against women as one of the most important issues to address especially in the church. I am doing it through preaching, teaching and talanoa sessions,” Rev Ligiraki said.

“Women in the church have now positively voiced out their opinions and men are willing to accept to hear from them in a respectable manner. That wasn’t the norm before in the circuit that I now serve.”

Photo: Methodist Church in Fiji Gender Equality Theology (GET) Minister, Rev Noa Turaganivalu presents Circuit Minister Rev Uluilakeba Ligiraki with his GET Advocate and Trainer certificate.

Thank you to everyone who has donated to our appeal to help our church partners end family violence through Gender Equality Theology. At time of writing, we’re just over two thirds of the way to reaching our $90,000 goal.

If you’re inspired by the work of the Pacific Church, please support their mission by visiting www.unitingworld.org.au/endviolence