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Commitment for Life

May 16th, 2017 · No Comments

 

25 Years CfL logo for webCommitment for Life is the world development programme of the United Reformed Church and remembers 25 years of seeking justice in 2017. We encourage participating churches to take action, pray and give for people across the world but especially in our four partner countries/region of Bangladesh, Central America (Honduras, Guatemala. Nicaragua and El Salvador), Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory and Zimbabwe. We work in partnership with Christian Aid and Global Justice Now and have raised millions of pounds. To find out more about the programme, visit the resources page on the URC web site and look at the Intro Leaflet. Use the Mission/Commitment for Life/drop menu bar to find Stories from Partner countries, partner countries resources,  videos, worship and much more. – See more at: http://www.urc.org.uk/mission/commitment-for-life.html#sthash.KOqW5g9j.dpuf
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Commitment for Life – June 2017 ———-stories for change 133————

March 21st, 2017 · No Comments

CENTRAL AMERICA

Despite the difficult context existing across Central America, Christian Aid country staff are working closely with partners to build appropriate opportunities. For example, in Guatemala, partner Colectivo Madre Selva, is supporting an initiative to build small hydroelectric plants to help excluded indigenous communities to access energy. The project is aligned with the principles of the Big Shift Campaign and the use of low carbon energy.

Another example of responding to the challenges of climate change can be seen through Christian Aid’s partner Soppexcca in Nicaragua. Soppexcca is currently working to diversify agricultural production through the introduction of cocoa. The project is allowing small farmers to build better resilience against the challenges of climate change, through the transition from coffee production to cocoa production.

In Guatemala, Colectivo Madre Selva are working on a hydroelectric power and climate change monitoring project. Partners, Betania and Congcoop have started a climate change monitoring project looking at the impact of climate change on livelihoods

Colectivo Madre Selva, Guatemala

Just three months ago the arrival of electricity in La Taña was a cause for a 4-day fiesta. Music, dance and Mayan ceremonies were the main highlights of the celebration. Electric power came to La Taña when Colectivo Madre Selva and a group of church organisations, including Christian Aid, installed a small community-owned hydroelectric power plant that benefits over fifteen hundred Maya-Kekchi men and women.

The energy autonomy programme proposes an alternative model to populations that have been historically left out by the state and its development policy, which is based on extractive industries oriented to energy exports. In addition to producing environmentally-friendly electric power with renewable resources, the project is intended for communities to decide on and responsibly manage their own resources and to do it sustainably in the medium and long term. La Taña’s 300 families have access to water and lighting at a reasonable cost of US$4 per household. Payments made by community residents are saved to cover the small electric system maintenance costs and the salaries of four local electricians in charge of technical service for the energy generating equipment.

The community turbine, as they call it, generates electric power for all. It uses some 125 litres of water per second taken from a river headwaters. Building the community-owned hydroelectric power plant and installing electric power in the community has resulted in the unthinkable— providing the community with a four-computer internet service.

Alvaro Hernández, a 45-year-old merchant, went to Uspantán to buy his first freezer ever, and the first one in town. There is an evident novelty in the community: dozens of children eating home-made ice cream. It is the first time La Taña children have eaten ice cream. The power has also enabled the community health clinic to have better equipment such as the use of ultra-sound, and fridges for storing medicines.

BANGLADESH

Christian Aid continues to work with a total of 19 partners across Bangladesh. Their partners range from national level policy and advocacy organisations that focus on climate change, to partners that work in the field dealing with the issue of secure livelihoods and gender. Christian Aid also works on climate change, disaster risk management, gender equality and human rights issues.

As the global climate changes, Bangladesh is likely to experience more than most, making it an ‘impact hotspot.’ Recent extreme temperatures demonstrated how average temperature rise can also increase the likelihood of dangerous heatwaves. Both average and extreme rainfall is projected to further increase, which will raise flood risks from the large rivers that meet in the country’s floodplains. This combination of increased flooding and moisture stress means that the 80% of Bangladeshis whose lives depend on agriculture must substantially increase their resilience.

The shrinking of civil society space has had a direct impact on aid policy, making it increasingly difficult for civil society organisations to obtain funding approval from the NGO affairs bureau to implement rights based programmes. Simultaneously, international donor agencies are becoming increasingly reluctant to fund tangible, service delivery projects, preferring instead to fund rights based programmes. Hence funding for Bangladesh’s programme is becoming increasingly hard to come by, and permission to implement projects, increasingly hard to secure from government bodies.

Within the context of the ever-changing climate mentioned above, livelihoods work has continued to be a focus of Christian Aid’s work in Bangladesh over the last six months. Partners have worked on scaling up existing good practices, and implementing projects which have a particular focus on sustainability in light of these climate change challenges. Partners have focused on diversifying income generation options, climate adaptive livelihood and adaptation measures, resulting in enhanced levels of resilience to climate change.

These climate adaptation measures have included floating gardens and hanging vegetables in water logged areas, saline tolerant rice varieties, saline tolerant maize and sunflower varieties in saline prone areas, vermicompost in river basin areas, and diversification into duck rearing and lamb rearing.

ZIMBABWE

Christian Aid’s programme in Zimbabwe has faced many challenges over the last year or so. The political, economic and environmental situation has created an extremely difficult set of circumstances for our partners to carry out their work. That said, through sensitively building constructive relationships at the local government and authority level, Christian Aid has been able to continue implementing its programmes largely unimpeded.

Christian Aid’s programme has continued to focus on profitable, resilient, drought resistant agriculture, conflict transformation and peace building, and the strengthening of citizens to build capable states. Projects include those focusing on market development, extractives, tax and responsive budgeting accountability, and transparency. The programme has been designed to dovetail with Zimbabwe’s national economic development strategy to support the restoration of economic stability and growth. As such, it strikes a balance between responding to the needs of the poor and seeking transformative change through being rooted in policy and advocacy.

Political outlook

Zimbabwe remains politically volatile, particularly as the country approaches general elections in early 2018. Internal conflicts amongst potential opposition parties abound, meaning, yet again there is virtually no meaningful opposition to Robert Mugabe’s ongoing, tyrannical regime.

Outside politics however, a new wave of political activism consisting of individuals, churches and spontaneous social movements has emerged as an alternative force to the malaise of political opposition.

During the second half of 2016, these activists and movements spearheaded a wave of violent demonstrations and confrontations against the Mugabe regime. Security forces cracked down heavily in response to these demonstrations, and in late August 2016, in a direct violation of the constitution, a total ban on demonstrations was introduced.

While the momentum of these movements has reduced somewhat in early 2017, there is growing concern that the government is now almost totally preventing and supressing any alternative or opposing opinions, and as such has ordered the immediate arrests of anyone voicing opposition to the government.

A group of Commitment for Life supporters will be visiting Zimbabwe and will bring back stories and worship materials to share with church

 

With technical support brokered by CA, two private sector companies, Organic Africa and Bayoba developed a business plan that has helped them secure investment. The two companies provide a secure and viable market for high value, climate resilient herbs and wild collections supplied by marginalised poor communities.  Growth of these two companies’ business is set to impact on over 5000 small holder producers of small grains (sorghum, millet and sesame) and horticulture products, starting with high value gherkins.

 

Entrepreneurship for young people

Silveira House has reached over 3,859 children and young adults and 13,867 other people indirectly, enabling them to be safer with greater opportunities to improve their skills and life prospects, including the ability to voice their views and opinions on issues that affect them. The skills include blacksmithing, carpentry and tailoring.

A group from the United Reformed Church will be visiting Christian Aid partners in May 2017.

 

BANGLADESH

 

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has produced a video of Women Farmers of Bangladesh looking at support across a variety of sectors including aquaculture, crop, and dairy farming. This story resonates with much of the work of Christian Aid partners.

Shipra Bagchi is the first of the women we meet in the video; she is a shrimp farmer from the village of Baniakhali in Bagerhat, a district of the Khulna division in southwestern Bangladesh. When she first started shrimp farming twenty years ago, Shipra had less than a tenth of a hectare of land (0.05 ha). She recalls how difficult it was to make ends meet in those days. “At that time, this whole area was inundated. Rice cultivation wasn’t possible.” She remembers that people used to survive by picking water lilies. And Shipra herself struggled with her new endeavour. “Earlier, I didn’t know the good practices of shrimp farming.”

Thanks to a project implemented by FAO and the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, with support from the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), Shipra received training in key skills and techniques for improved and increased shrimp production: “How to enhance shrimp production, the benefit of the nursery and the use of PCR certified seeds, correct doses of lime, etc.”

“If I hadn’t received this training, I would not have come to this stage,” she says, noting that her shrimp production has increased significantly. “It is more than double.”

Today, Shipra has around 4 to 4.5 ha of land. “I bought land,” she says. And that’s not all. “After all these years I have managed to build houses, provide education for my children.”

Shipra is eager to share the skills she has learned with others. “Now other people come to me, wanting to learn shrimp farming techniques,” she says. “They seek advice from me on how to become successful. This has all become possible because I followed the instructions under the project.”

credit   Http://www.fao.org

CENTRAL AMERICA: NICARAGUA

Nicaragua has experienced ongoing corruption at the highest levels, including during its last elections held in November 2016. President Daniel Ortega won a third term in office, alongside his running mate, Rosario Murillo, who also happened to be his wife. The election went unchallenged in terms of there being no organised political opposition, however there was significant disenchantment and anger throughout the country, with many demonstrations against his re-election. To date, he remains unchallenged, but the Organisation of American States (OAS) has now requested an open dialogue with President Ortega and his regime, and in January 2017 the OAS presented an official report to the government, making recommendations to improve democracy and transparency over the next three years. Simultaneously, the EU Parliament has condemned Nicaragua’s regime due to the prevalence of human rights abuses and political repression – most cases of which are related to the defence of natural resources and conflict linked to the development of large scale projects on inhabited land.

New US Administration

Following the election of Mr Trump in the US, and his immigration policy, more controls are being put in place to avoid citizens from Central America entering the US. Many of the Central Americans that have been entering the US, have been escaping violence or climate change events that have hindered their attempts to pursue a secure livelihood, and live in safety. For example, many people have been fleeing significant drought and crop failure in Central America over the last year. Governments and UN authorities now believe that there is significant risk of a humanitarian crisis ensuing over the next year in Central America, especially in the so-called ‘Dry Corridor’ where the poorest population are located. In June 2016, it was noted that 3.5 million people were already in need of humanitarian assistance across Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and this is only expected to get worse.

Christian Aid is supporting various ACT Alliance initiatives to support some of these extremely vulnerable small farmers and indigenous communities who are currently experiencing considerable food and water shortages.

Stories for Change is produced by Commitment for Life: it seeks to inform and inspire. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the URC.

lmeadcforl@gmail.com 01702 315981 Church House 0207 7691 9867

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Messy Church – Last Saturday of the month

March 20th, 2017 · No Comments

Messy Church is the last Saturday of every month.

You’ll find us at the United Reformed Church, or St Margarets, Churchill, from 10:30am.

Due to the upgrade of the Churchill site please note tyhe change of venue for the following months.

 

25th Mar 17 URC Easter
29th April 17 St Margaret’s Elisha
27th May 17 URC Hannah
24th June 17 St Margaret’s Fayre in the Square
26th Aug 17 URC Moses
30th Sept 17 URC Moses
28th Oct 17 URC Moses
25th Nov 17 URC Christmas
28th Feb 18 URC
31st Mar 18 URC Easter
28th April 18 URC
26th May 18 URC
25th Aug 18 URC
29th Sept 18 URC
27th Oct 18 URC
24th Nov 18 URC Christmas

We start with games and a story, do lots of crafts, have a short service and then eat lunch together. Food and craft materials are provided free of charge.

Children must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Messy Church is…

  • A church for adults and children to enjoy together.
  • It’s primarily for people who don’t belong to another form of church already.
  • It’s all-age.
  • It’s fun.
  • It usually includes some creative time to explore the biblical theme through getting messy; a celebration time which might involve story, prayer, song, games and similar; and a meal together.
  • Its values are those of hospitality, creativity and celebration. It models and promotes good ways of growing as a family: a nuclear family, an extended family and a global and local church family.
  • The first one started in Hampshire in 2004 and the idea has spread so that there are now many Messy Churches.
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Cream Teas

March 20th, 2017 · No Comments

Throughout the summer months, we are holding cream teas each Saturday afternoon from 14:00-16:00 in the church hall.

Watch out for this years dates!

 

We look forward to seeing you there again this year!

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Fairtrade Coffee Morning

March 20th, 2017 · No Comments

As a result of the of our FairTrade Coffee Morning, we were able to send, on behalf of our church, a cheque to the value of £200.00 to the FairTrade organisation.  Thank  you to all who supported our fundraising for this worthjwhile organisation.

 

 

Find out more at http://step.fairtrade.org.uk/

 

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Holy Week Ecumenical Activities 2017

April 14th, 2014 · No Comments

Holy week services will be held as follows:

Monday 10th April at 7.30pm – Helensburgh Parish Church Passover Meal Commemoration

Tuesday 11th April at 7.30pm –  St Margaret’s Churchill

Wednesday 12th April at 7.30pm – The United Reformed Church

Maundy Thursday at 7.30pm – Cardross Parish Church Ecumenical Celebration of the Lord’s Supper

Good Friday:

9am – StMichael’s and All Angels – Stations of tghe Cross followed by hot-cross-buns and coffee and tea

11am Ecumenical Walk of Witness – Departs St Joseph’s

7.30pm – StMichael’s and All Angels

 

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Moving Stories: 203 Responding to the crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory: April 2017

May 20th, 2013 · No Comments

Update on the current political situation in IOPT

 

The Middle East is experiencing protracted and violent conflict; poverty, vulnerability and uncertain futures now define millions of lives. Much of the region is affected by the huge numbers of people fleeing war, deprivation and discrimination. In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory bitterness and violence have become more entrenched between Israelis and Palestinians and there is currently no peace process with which to encourage hope. Since 2007, Gaza has experienced three military offensives putting ever greater strain on a crumbling infrastructure. Israeli policies continue to control nearly all aspects of Palestinian lives and abuse their most basic rights throughout OPT. Israel’s ongoing occupation continues to be characterised by its expanding settlement programme with approximately 600,000 Israelis now living in illegal settlements on appropriated Palestinian land.

 

Furthermore, civil society is seriously under threat in IOPT. In Israel, on 11 July 2016, the Israeli Knesset voted to approve a NGO Bill which will require NGOs to publicly declare if they receive more than 50 percent of their annual budget from foreign governments in the name of transparency. The law will mainly apply to human rights organisations and to anti-occupation organizations, which are critical of Israeli Government policies in the OPT.  The Law requires organisations to publicly declare that they are reliant on foreign funding in any dealings with officials, in the media, on billboard advertising and online. Without such funding, many organisations would struggle to exist and human rights protection work would be critically threatened. In Egypt, all projects receiving foreign funding must be approved by the Ministry of Social Solidarity in order to be implemented. This process results in long delays in work, and is rendering human rights work almost impossible with organisations and activists under threat. A proposed new NGO law is expected to improve the process but not remove the need for permissions, severely restricting the ability of civil society to operate effectively and freely.

Jabal al Baba demolition

 

26 January 2017, the Israeli Civil Administration, accompanied by the army, demolished six structures belonging to two households in Jabal al Baba, one of the 18 communities within the area allocated for the E1 plan. The demolition targeted three residential structures, two animal shelters and one outdoor toilet, on the grounds of lack of building permits.

On 15 February 2017, The UN’s Office for the Communication of Human Affairs (OCHA) visited one of the two displaced families whose property and belongings were reduced to rubble. The demolition had targeted two residential units made of corrugated iron and wood, and a pen where they kept chicken, turkeys and ducks. According to the owner, Salem, the demolition took the family by surprise as they had a court injunction against it and had received no prior warning.

Salem, his wife, Umm Muhammed, and four children are now homeless. Umm Muhammed, her two sons (aged 17 and 18) and two unmarried daughters (aged 23 and 24) are staying with Salem’s married brother in the neighbouring town of Al Eizariya. Salem is living close to his demolished house in an old Ford transit van converted into a makeshift home and covered with a tarpaulin to shelter from the rain and cold wind. The van’s back seats are the bedroom and sofa, and the side mirror is a peg for hanging clothes. The area outside the van’s side door serves as the living room and kitchen. It is small, muddy and chaotic, and can barely fit two chairs.

The family received basic humanitarian relief items, including two tents, but reported that they have not been able to put them up because of the wet ground, the wintery, windy conditions, and fear of demolition by the ICA and the army. This was the second time the family experienced a demolition since 2014. Salem said that after the first time around he was in a much better financial position and was able to rebuild his house. This time, he tried to make a temporary shelter out of car tyres but was unsuccessful.

Umm Muhammed, Salem’s wife, described the psychological and physical difficulties faced by the family. “The demolition has been devastating and our situation is miserable. We’re homeless. It’s been psychologically tiring for all of us. I personally feel powerless and unwell. Where shall we go? And how shall we live here? Our stuff is under the rubble. I have had to borrow clothes and shoes from my sister. The girls are very sad; they lost everything: the clothes they like and things they need. They do not feel comfortable or free at their uncle’s house, which is already crowded with his kids (over 13 of them) and two wives. They do not even feel comfortable to make a cup of tea there. Before the demolition, I loved keeping our house clean and tidy. Now look around. No one can live like this.  I cannot understand how my husband can live in such conditions… I come to see him here (in the van) for a few hours every day.

My daughters also come but cannot stay for long. There is nowhere to stay and nowhere to cook. There is no toilet or bath… Where we stay is not our home. I don’t feel comfortable and relaxed to cook. To demolish someone’s house is to wreck their life…,” said Umm Muhammed.

© www.ochaopt.org   Can be reproduced for non-commercial use

New Technology

B’Tselem have recently released a new interactive documentary entitled “The Invisible Walls of Occupation”. Viewers are invited on a virtual tour of the Palestinian village of Burqah, a rural suburb of the city of Ramallah that has become cut off from its urban centre through various restrictions imposed by Israel. The documentary has Burqah residents leading viewers on a virtual tour of their village. The project depicts the story of the village and illustrates various aspects of Palestinians’ daily life under occupation. The project was co-produced by B’Tselem and Canadian digital studio Folklore, and is based on a B’Tselem report by the same name.

Background on the village of Burqah, from B’Tselem’s report The Invisible Walls of Occupation:

The Palestinian village of Burqah in the West Bank is rather unremarkable. It has never taken centre stage in the fight against the occupation, and has not been subjected to extreme punitive measures. In fact, Burqah was chosen precisely because it is unexceptional but demonstrating what life under the occupation is like for residents of Palestinian villages. It is a small, picturesque village, surrounded by fields. Like many other villages, it endures severe travel restrictions which isolate it from its surroundings. It is also subject to massive land-grabs and stifling planning, all of which have turned it into a derelict, crowded and backward village with half its population living at or below the poverty line.

Burqah residents may live in Area B, but despite the illusion created when powers were transferred to the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s full control of Area C means it has the power to influence many aspects of life in Areas A and B, even allowing it to freeze the day-to-day routine of Palestinians living in those areas. The closure of roads leading into the village has greatly limited residents’ access to employment, medical services, shopping centres, medical services, institutions of higher education, and leisure facilities. They are forbidden from accessing about a third of their farmland. Area C includes not only farmland, but also almost all the land reserves for future development of the village. Barring Palestinians access to this land has created a severe housing shortage. These issues affect every aspect of life in the village. Burqah is a case in point, demonstrating how the settlements and their interests play a central role in Israel’s policy planning in the West Bank, even at the cost of grave harm to the Palestinian residents, and how a legal-administrative web stifles a village, life and development. The Israeli authorities always put the interests of the settlers and the settlements before those of the Palestinian population. Although the settlements are unlawful in themselves, Israel allocates a great deal of resources to developing them and protecting their residents, while doing everything in its power to block Palestinian development.

www.btselem.org

 

Moving Stories is produced by Commitment for Life, the programme of the United Reformed Church that seeks to raise issues around justice and development. To receive Moving Stories email linda.mead@urc.org.uk. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the URC

 

 

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Coffee and Company

February 14th, 2013 · No Comments

Coffee and company happens every Wednesday morning from 10.30am to 12pm.

Come along for a coffee, cake and a chat.

All are welcome!

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