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Project Updates

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, significant progress had been made to alleviate poverty.

In the first two decades of the millennium, global poverty rates had been cut by more than half and there was good reason to be optimistic about the future. 

The optimism spurred world nations to come together in 2015 and agree to work towards an ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals. Number one on the list: eradicating extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030. 

The pandemic plus rising inflation and the impacts of the invasion of Ukraine have set progress back as much as nine years in many low-income countries. 

Despite the United Nations declaring a “Decade of Action” to accelerate progress and get back on track, efforts to end poverty are not yet advancing at the speed or scale required to meet the goal.  

Where do we Christians fit in to this and what can we do?

At the turn of the millennium, Christians were at the forefront of anti-poverty movements like Make Poverty History, Jubilee 2000 and Micah Challenge (now Micah Australia).

In Australia, activism has continued through the years, with Christian groups lobbying successive Australian governments to increase funding commitments to sustainable development across the globe.  

The position of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) has been that Australia should commit to the internationally-agreed target of contributing 0.7 per cent of our Gross National Income (GNI) to sustainable development initiatives by 2030. 

After a long period of the deepest cuts to the aid budget in Australia’s history, the Albanese government has restored a modest increase, as well as partial indexation to ensure it grows over coming years.  

There’s hope again!  

But of course, it isn’t just about governments. It’s about all of us.  

We in the UCA, through UnitingWorld, are blessed to be a part of a powerful network of people and organisations working together to make sustainable progress to end poverty in our world. 

The lives and work of our overseas partners constantly show us what is possible even while faced with huge challenges.  

Take our partners in Bali.  

Imagine a tiny group of Christians, living amongst staunch Hindus. They make up less than two percent of the population and live on the cultural margins, with little power or influence. But led by the Gospel to bring good news to the poor, they set themselves to weaving a web of relationships.  

They win the trust of the poorest in their community by listening to them. They bring together village elders and government representatives. They reach out to their international church partners for support. Then, slowly but surely, they become the catalytic center of a movement of social transformation. 

Because of their hard work, people blindsided by COVID-19 have the chance to start again with new livelihoods. Women, young people and people with disability are able to have their say in how their village uses government grants. Families get access to health services and children go to school. And, best of all, the communities become more resilient and more able to deal with setbacks and disasters. 

This is the story of our partner, the Protestant Christian Church in Bali. Through them, we have the great privilege to be a part of their incredible community development work to end poverty in rural villages.  

Every day, our overseas partners are impacting the lives of people and helping communities overcome poverty in real and lasting ways. 

It’s a joy to be able to support them in it.   

The movement to end poverty is formidable, but smaller than the need requires. 

So everyone is invited, and everyone has a role to play. 

Together we can end poverty. 

Photos: After he had to leave his job to look after his elderly mother, Komang was struggling to make ends meet and was losing hope for a better life for his family. Supported by UnitingWorld, the Protestant Christian Church in Bali helped him start a small chicken-breeding business that has given him an entire new future. 

You can help us make a powerful impact this tax time

We’re fundraising to resource the critical work of our church partners in the Pacific, Asia and Africa; giving people the tools and opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty. 

Right now, your donation will be combined with funding with the Australian Government to make up to six times the impact ending poverty! 

Donate today at www.unitingworld.org.au/endpoverty 

Here at UnitingWorld, we believe the most effective way to help people overcome poverty for good is sustainable development in partnership with local communities.

Our partner church’s project to end poverty in rural Bali is a great example of the lives that we can change, and how by working together we make a bigger impact to end poverty.

It’s a program that helped thousands of families keep their heads above water during the pandemic and that is now helping people like Komang, his wife, Desak, and their three children escape intergenerational poverty.

Komang comes from a low-caste farming family. Growing up far from the tourist circuit and its employment opportunities, he never had the chance to pursue an education but was fortunate to secure a job as a driver for the provincial government.

When his father died of COVID-19, he had to leave his job to look after his elderly mother at home (pictured). He worked as a day labourer for fishermen nearby and tried building back the family vegetable farm, hoping to make a life of it. He worked hard to provide for his family and hoped to give them opportunities he didn’t have.

But in the quiet village economy, Komang was only just managing to make ends meet. When the economic downturn hit, he started to despair that he wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for his children to go to school or have proper health care.

He couldn’t see it, but a whole network of people was working together and was ready to help him find a path to a more secure, hopeful future.  

Komang heard about the Maha Bhoga Marga Foundation (MBM), the development agency of our partner, the Protestant Church in Bali, from the elders of his village who were hosting a meeting to connect the community with MBM staff.

“We received information from the village that there would be a visit from MBM, who could help with our low income,” said Komang. “So, we attended a meeting together with twelve other families from our community. They listened to our struggles with the economy, job-losses, high cost of living… and explained how they can help.”

Komang told them his biggest challenges were learning how to grow a new business and finding money to start. Our partners said they could help with both.

UnitingWorld supporters helped resource our partners to provide Komang with technical help to launch a chicken-breeding venture and cash to buy the things he needed to get started.

Working hard to make the most of the opportunity, Komang turned 100 chickens into a thriving small business! He can now afford to send his children to school and buy the essentials they need.

The dream that I have always hoped for is that our family can change for the better, to do more prosperous work so that we can have a decent life and without lacking anything.

The role of the MBM staff means a lot to our success. From the beginning until now, they accompanied us in providing help and and group training with others who were given the same support. This way we can each make improvements, sharing the experiences of raising chickens.” 

We talk a lot about the importance of partnership at UnitingWorld, because we really do believe that when we work together — churches, local communities and leaders, people like Komang, and you and me— we unlock the most effective route out of poverty.

And when partnership is at its best, all parts are able to give and to receive and to celebrate the incomparable joy of each life made more abundant.

 


You can make a powerful impact this tax time 

We’re fundraising to resource the critical work of our church partners in the Pacific, Asia and Africa; giving people the tools and opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty. We hope to raise $500,000 to continue this life-changing work.

Right now, your donation will be combined with funding from the Australian Government to make up to six times the impact ending poverty! 

Find out more and donate at www.unitingworld.org.au/endpoverty 

 

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.

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.

Rev. Samuel Gnanarajah
Deaf Link, Methodist Church Sri Lanka (MCSL)

 

All mighty Heavenly Father,

People with disabilities are one of the most marginalized and vulnerable minorities in Sri Lankan society.

They are less likely to have access to education, health care facilities, economic and social status than those without disabilities.

Our prayer is that the ‘self-help’ groups we’ve formed will become independent and include themselves in wider society confidently.

Our prayer is always for children with special needs, for their education, livelihood and inclusion with other children.

God of life, we are sorry for looking down and treating people with disabilities as objects for charity instead of considering them as fuller humans who need our empathy and understanding.

Our prayer to have a fruitful life together towards an inclusive community in our country.

Lord, Deaf Link is on an incredible journey to embrace the PWD’S and uphold their dignity. Guide us throughout our pilgrimage.

God of the disabled, give us the vision to see that all people have gifts and abilities to share as part of our community of faith.

We pray in the name of the one who always saw the best in people, Jesus Christ, our lord,

Amen.

 

UnitingWorld supports our partner Deaf Link to provide occupational training to women with disabilities and provide access to education for children with disabilities. This enables people with disabilities, through work and study, to be accepted, equal and valued members of society. Find out more

 


 

Pray in solidarity with our partners

As part of Lent Event this year, we asked our church partners from around the world how we can support them in prayer. Their responses allow us to pray in solidarity, but also to learn about their struggles and what they long to see in their communities.

The above prayer was one that was featured in the guide in a shortened version.

Click here to download or order a printed booklet.

 

A community in Papua Guinea came together to construct a system to improve the water quality of their entire village. 

In the remote village of Masingara in Western Province, the people have been determined to improve the quality of life in their community.  

For years, people in the area had been sourcing their water from an unprotected pond outside the village. Despite it being fed by a natural spring, the water quality was very poor and people had to travel long distances to collect it.  

Locals say the pond was used by the first missionaries who arrived in the area more than 150 years ago. 

The people of Masingara spoke to their local government Ward Member and village Development Committee about possibilities for new water infrastructure and found out what they needed: a ‘spring box’ to extract the water before it becomes contaminated, and a large header tank to store and pump the water to three points across the village.  


They sought expertise from the United Church of Papua New Guinea (UCPNG) water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program team and funding for materials through the Australian Government Church Partnership Program (CPP). 

The people then mobilised their community and church to support the venture through donations and volunteer labour.    

The whole community contributed, applying a philosophy of ‘sweat equity’ to ensure everyone played their part bringing stones and gravel to the construction sites, digging trenches and installing the pipes.  

The project was a huge success, with water now being pumped by solar power from the spring box to the header tower and then on to three locations across the village.  

UCPNG WASH Program Team Leader Clement Nusama said he was thrilled to see the determination of the community to see the project through and hopes it will inspire future development projects in the area. 

“When the team and volunteers finally connected up the pipes to the spring head, they were excited to see how clear the water was when it flowed to the surface, compared to how murky and filled with algae it was,” he said.  

Well done to the people of Masingara, UCPNG and the Church Partnership Program (CPP) for working together to bring clean water to another remote community in Papua New Guinea!  

The PNG Church Partnership Program is supported by the Australian Government through the Papua New Guinea–Australia Partnership. It impacted the lives of 14,300 people over the past financial year.

 

 

Pipit Purwadi
MBM Foundation, Protestant Christian Church in Bali (GKPB)

 

 

 

Lord Jesus, we are grateful for Your presence in our lives.

Towards the end of the year, there were many natural disasters around us.

Floods, landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

Previously, Covid-19 haunted our lives. Many of our brothers and sisters have been laid off, resulting in an increase in poverty in our assisted communities, they have difficulty accessing basic rights: Education, health and food. Assistance for women’s reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, plastic waste management that was previously carried out by MBM, can no longer be carried out optimally due to the pandemic.

Dear God, as social workers assisting the community, we also experience confusion. However, we know that You are always with and blessing. For this reason, we continue to try to help the community with what we have.

We are grateful, through the help of partners, communities affected by Covid-19 and natural disasters, have received business capital assistance and assistance to survive. Likewise, support from the Village Government in dealing with disasters helps residents survive difficult situations.

O God, give us the strength to survive the threat of future disasters. Enable us to be able to adapt to climate change, while maintaining this nature.

We believe, only by Your help can we go through every struggle.

Thank you Jesus,

Amen.

The Maha Bhoga Marga Foundation (MBM) is an advocacy and empowerment organisation established by our partner the Protestant Christian Church (GKPB) in Bali. UnitingWorld supports MBM to advocate for the rights of women and the poor to participate in village decision-making processes and provides women and poor families with vocational skills training so they can generate an income. We also support rural communities with health and hygiene services and education. Find out more

 


 

Pray in solidarity with our partners

As part of Lent Event this year, we asked our church partners from around the world how we can support them in prayer. Their responses allow us to pray in solidarity, but also to learn about their struggles and what they long to see in their communities.

The above prayer was one that was featured in the guide in a shortened version.

Click here to download or order a printed booklet.

 

 

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

It has been a busy year for our three Women in Ministry scholarship program students: Rev Geraldine, Daphney and Rev Susana. All three are studying post-graduate degrees at Pacific Theological College (PTC) in Suva, Fiji.

Rev Geraldine is continuing her PhD and is expecting to graduate at the end of 2023. Daphney and Rev Susana are on track to graduate with a Master of Theology at the end of 2022. It rounds off this part of their journey, which had the extra challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic in the middle of it. Please keep them in your prayers as they celebrate their accomplishments and trust in God’s call on their lives. We look forward to seeing how their gifts enrich churches across the Pacific in the future.

If you want to support this project, find out more here.

Student spotlight: Daphney

Daphney (pictured above) handed in her thesis in September and awaits her final results. Her thesis topic is “Wantok Justice: a community approach to ministry towards women’s rights issues for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG”.

After completing her Masters, Daphney’s goal is to work with the people (including women and children) either on the ground or teaching contextual ministry for justice to help Pacific communities adapt and become resilient in a changing world through the teachings of Jesus.

Outside of her studies, Daphney is a member of the Reweaving the Ecological Mat group, engaging in the Pacific Ecumenical Youth spaces, regional workshops, community work, advocacy campaigns, and webinars. She is also a passionate campaigner against deep sea mining in the Pacific.

What have you been working on during your final semester?

This year my studies focused on thesis writing, so I did not take any classes but attended seminars and public lectures on missiology and academic research (critical thinking, critical reading, academic writing, critical analysis, etc.). I have learned something new on missiology and the inter-cultural translation of ancient texts and academic research and skills.

Was there anything that you learned that has challenged you?

Every day at PTC is a new learning experience; the seminar conversations around indigenous theology of whole of life and leadership for justice challenges my worldview of justice, rights, and my responsibility towards others within the household of God.
What I’ve been learning has helped me in writing my thesis towards a community approach to navigate injustices against women and protect the human dignity of women in our communities.

As a woman studying theology, who inspires you?

My grandparents are my biggest inspiration, the blessings of their humble evangelism work throughout the Morobe, Gulf, and Highland regions of Papua New Guinea is seen in our families every day. Listening to the stories of their evangelism work as a child I became curious as I grew up, wanting to know more about the work they do and the interesting stories of them walking thousands of miles to help German and American missionaries teach God’s word to the people of PNG. The stories of my grandfather observing tribes, clans and villages, and learning their language in order to adapt to the rhythm of life of these communities was fascinating. My grandfather did not go to a formal education system but he used instinct and his little knowledge at the Bible school to contextualise learning for the PNG communities.

He thought about God in the context of the people. His ability to contextualise theology and apply it in his ministry practices has inspired me to study theology and write a thesis on contextual church ministry for justice for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG. The strong will, courage, endurance and patience of my grandmothers, who have closely walked beside their husbands in this evangelism work, has inspired me to be strong-willed, courageous, endure, persevere, and patient in the process of research and writing.

Do you have a message for the Uniting Church?

My heart is filled with joy and thanksgiving to God for the Uniting Church in Australia’s generosity in not only supporting me financially with my studies but for supporting women theologians across Oceania. I pray for God’s blessing and grace upon the Uniting Church in Australia as it continues its ministry to support and help more women become theologians and leaders in their churches.

Prayer Requests from Daphney

  • The PTC community as we are going through the transition into a university come 2024.
  • Pray for one of our PTC community members, Rev Taniela Ratawa, and their family. The Reverend’s wife has been diagnosed with stage 3 cancer and has gone through her 4th chemo cycle.
  • Pray for the ecumenical community especially church leaders in Oceania who attended the World Council of Churches Assembly.
  • Daphney’s mother, Geac, sadly passed away in early October. Please pray for the family during this time.

Rev Susana

Rev Susana hopes to continue on to a PhD. Her dream is to be the first iTaukei woman to achieve a Doctorate degree in Theology. She said:

“I thank the Uniting Church for supporting and assisting me for the two years of my studies. Thanks for the heart of giving and I hope God will continue to bless the Uniting Church.”

Prayer requests from Rev Susana

  • Pray for my new posting for next year
  • Pray for my family

Rev Geraldine

In September, UnitingWorld hosted a Zoom conversation (or talanoa) with Rev Geraldine and supporters of Women in Ministry. We had 25 people join us from 10 different communities that directly support Women in Ministry. Project Manager Tanya interviewed Geraldine, which was followed by questions and a short time of prayer. It was a great evening and very inspiring to hear Geraldine’s story and passion for her work. If you would like to watch the interview section, the video is now available.

Prayer requests from Rev Geraldine

  • Please pray for my studies and family.
  • Please pray for my new supervisor, Rev Dr Afereti Uili, to help him understand my thesis and guide me throughout my writing.

Chickens are easily some of the most popular gift cards from our Everything in Common Gift Catalogue, a concrete symbol of the way lives can be transformed.

But how many chickens does it take to help a community break free from poverty?

In Gokwe South, Zimbabwe, we (roughly) know the answer. Through the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe’s Development Agency (MEDRA), you’ve been supporting projects with a few communities for several years: providing chicks, equipment, seeds; training groups in budgeting, bookkeeping, and breeding of livestock; giving advice on how to market the products to get the best profit.

We’re delighted to let you know that the groups are now self-sufficient, and have now transitioned away from MEDRA’s support.

“All six of our broiler (chicken) project groups have managed to survive the impact of COVID-19 and are fully operational again,” our partners report. “Two of these groups increased production from 50 to 100 broilers, meaning that families are self-sustaining as they buy groceries, use health services and pay school fees.”

MEDRA have also set up savings and lending groups, which encourage people to pool their income and provide for those in need through small, interest-free loans. All the groups have saved between $5 and $10 each month – and one group member managed to buy four goats from money borrowed from the group savings. The outcome isn’t just about putting food on the table either. Women and people with disabilities have gained respect and positions of leadership in their communities, children have been able to go to school and people have supported others during hard times.

This is community resilience at its finest.

Thank you to everyone who has helped this community – one chicken gift at a time – learn new skills and stand up strong!

 

You can help other communities do the same

Host an Everything in Common Gift Stall this year!