Helping thousands living in poverty to help themselves

Val Barron, from Christian Aid, at Morpeth Rotary Club.
Val Barron, from Christian Aid, at Morpeth Rotary Club.

Morpeth Rotary Club

ROTARIAN Dr Paul Crook arranged for Val Barron to talk to club members about Christian Aid.

She started as a volunteer and is now a Regional Organiser, supporting development for the poorest throughout the world.

Val was brought up in Grantham, not far from the Roberts’ grocery shop where Margaret Thatcher lived.

She became a nurse and following marriage and daughters, moved with her husband from London to the North East, where both began new careers.

Val’s husband is from Ashington and he was a project manager in industry but is now Vicar of High Spen and Rowlands Gill.

Christian Aid started around 1945 when the great problem was refugees. They were displaced persons who had lost just about everything due to the Second World War.

Its aim now is to help poor, marginalised and excluded people of all faiths and none.

Over the next few years, the charity will be demanding that governments share power equitably and protect vulnerable people from hunger, poverty and violence.

Christian Aid is promoting the ‘4 ifs’ campaign to try to change political priorities and this is backed by 200 aid agencies.

The campaign says that there is enough food in the world for all: If we give enough aid to stop children dying of hunger and help the poorest families to feed themselves; if we use crops to feed people and not cars and stop poor farmers being forced off their land; if governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries and if governments and big companies are honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food.

The organisation has 60 years of experience and a vision to transform the world but cannot do this alone. Corruption through governments is often a problem as money can be given and nothing much happens.

It works directly with partners already in the project countries and it has local offices to ensure that projects are monitored and effective.

Christian Aid is funding traditional aid projects to help individuals and communities, but the greatest area of work is advocacy. This includes lobbying MPs and much work is to help women.

The poorest countries in the world have the worst inequalities for women. In some countries, more than 80 per cent of women suffer from domestic abuse.

New legislation to help stop domestic abuse was recently rejected by the Afghan parliament. In Afghanistan under the Taliban, there were only one million in school and they were all male. Now there are five million in school and a third is female, but changes are not fully established.

It has 40 community projects here to help women start their own business. As it always works through partners, there is no problem with the Christian label.

The charity is also currently working in Latin America, where land is stolen from small farmers and indigenous people by cattle ranchers and logging companies.

Projects employ lawyers so that they can get the land back and use it to feed themselves. Christian Aid has helped over 1,000 families to get a legal title, so instead of having to work as labourers they can work the family farm with cocoa plants for chocolate.

With this and other projects, including the supply of sheep for lambing, family income has gone up 20 per cent in the last three years.

Some of the countries it works in are nominally wealthy, but they still have communities where many people live in poverty.