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Darshi was born without hearing in an area of Sri Lanka’s west coast which was devastated by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. The population are mostly Tamil, and they’ve worked hard to recover and build a better life for their kids. But people with disabilities are up to five times more likely to live in poverty. They represent the most vulnerable group in the world.

Darshi’s parents were understandably worried about her future.

The Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, through Deaf Link, are committed to overcoming extreme poverty by advocating for structural changes in their communities and equipping people with disability to take control of their own lives.

They don’t believe in charity. They believe in long-lasting change, at all levels and by all members of society. Your gifts, combined with investment from the Australian Government, are helping make it happen.

Deaf Link invited Darshi to take part in a disability inclusion class – rare in many parts of Sri Lanka. All the children in the class use international sign language to communicate with one another and here Darshi discovered not just the power of a community, but a love of dance and talent for art.

When we met her last year, she told us she hopes to be a teacher in a class similar to her own, where she wants to give other children with disability the chance to succeed.

You can give Darshi and others like her a hand so they can go on to change their worlds. Right now, your donation can have up to six times the impact beating poverty and building hope.*

Your tax-deductible donation will help provide urgent resources for our partners in Sri Lanka, India, Papua New Guinea and more as they work against the pull of poverty, which is the strongest it’s been in decades due to COVID-19. You can read here about exactly how it will go up to six times as far to build hope and beat poverty.


*How your gift can go up to six times as far

UnitingWorld is a valued partner of the Australian Government, receiving funding each year to carry out poverty alleviation, gender equality and climate change projects overseas.

Every donation you make to this appeal will be combined with funding from the Australian Government to reach more people. We have committedto contribute $1 for every $5 we receive from the government, which means your gift can go up to six times as far helping us extend the reach of our programs.

 

Here’s how!

First, some good news – the Australian Government really likes us because we’re accountable and creative with how we use their money, and we get great results! 🙂 They make grants available to us, but we need to co-invest in order to do the project work.  We’ve committed to contribute $1 for every $5 of what the Government makes available to us. Your contribution means we can match the government funding successfully, gain access to the full amount on offer and change more lives!

Okay so the more we give, the more you get?

Not exactly. Each year the Government makes Australian aid funding available to NGO’s like us based on their budgets. How much of that we can apply for and win depends on a whole range of factors. One of them is contributing funds from our own donors to match the grants. Another is demonstrating how much public supporter funding we’ve been able to attract over the past few years.

So the bucket isn’t bottomless, but your help means we can take advantage of everything on offer and potentially increase our share.

Your donation helps in a couple of other really important ways:

  1. It shows the Government that you trust us and believe in our work, which in turn increases their faith in us. This means they’re more likely to offer us a larger slice of the funding pie in the following year – and that’s a win for all of us!
  2. When you donate, you send a message loud and clear to our leaders that you’re prepared not to just give lip service to the idea that we should be good global citizens – you’ll put your money behind your ideals. With Governments watching closely to see which issues their people care about, this is one of the most powerful signals you can possibly send.

But wait – does this mean I should save up all my donations throughout the year and just give to this campaign?

If you can possibly manage it, it’s great to give to a range of our Campaigns. Here’s why:

Some of our partners aren’t large or sophisticated enough to handle the reporting and administrative standards for Australian Government grants – think about South Sudan where our partners are struggling to feed themselves, and electricity/internet is completely unreliable.

We rely on people like you to fund these projects and help us equip our partners to build the capacity they need so that they can be sustainable – longer term.

So what’s the best way to make my donation go furthest for good with UnitingWorld?

The choice is yours! There are benefits to each way of giving, including the incentive of a tax deduction, helping show your support of international aid to the Australian Government, responding compassionately in an emergency, or funding work that has few other sources of income.

Another excellent way to increase your impact is by becoming a regular giver.

  • Regular income provides security for our partners and helps them plan effectively
  • We don’t need to spend quite as much on promoting our work and encouraging people to give
  • We can use your gift when and where it’s needed most.

Global Neighbours are given annual updates about the impact of their work, and can choose exactly which other appeals and communications material they receive. We are incredibly grateful for this community of faithful supporters.

If you’re keen to check it out, visit us here

Do you ever feel like your attempts to change the world fall on deaf ears? It’s a pretty common experience.

Here are 5 quick ideas to help engage others for good.

1. Emotion rules.

We like to think we’re motivated by facts and logic, but we’re not. We’re biologically hard wired from way back to feel first, act next and think last. (Sabre tooth tiger FEAR! THREAT! RUN!) Only later does our rational brain engage – by which time, feelings are out in front.

What that means:  What are people likely already feeling about the thing you want to change?

We’re all far more willing to consider new ideas when we feel happy and encouraged – how can you help create that environment?

Share good news about the issues you care about and have the kind of presence that people warm to.

Tell your own story about why an issue really matters to you. If there are negative emotions involved in that – rage, sorrow – that’s okay too. Just be mindful about who you’re talking to, how they’re feeling and what you want to achieve. (More on that below)

2. Relationships matter.

We are far more likely to change our minds, give money or take action when information is delivered by people we know and like – other members of our ‘tribe.’ A lone monkey is a dead monkey- belonging to a group is critical to our sense wellbeing. No one changes ‘groups’ unless they feel safe and welcome in the new space, and although we’re more connected globally than ever, it’s mostly with people who think the way we do. We put each other in camps and those outside our camp have little chance of influencing our thinking and acting.

What that means: while you don’t need to stick to preaching to the converted, work most within your genuine sphere of influence – who likes and knows you?

Where are your common spaces, and which edges can you help shift a little toward the outcome you’re looking for?

If you have a shared faith, a shared love for your family, or other common interests, that’s fertile ground. Gently put down some seed, sunlight and water and you’ll have a shot at growing something people are ready to take on board. New, but not too radical!

You’re going to need to invest a lot more time into people with whom you have few similarities if you want to genuinely create change. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, but be mindful of what you’re up against and where you can best spend your efforts. Ask yourself: what’s the best strategic way to engage? And be really careful not to sneer or attack those with different views – people don’t gravitate toward groups that belittle them.

3. Know your strengths.

The social change team is made up of a whole range of players – quiet influencers, protestors/activists, advocates, public communicators. Each has its pros and cons.

  • Quiet influencers sometimes feel they’re not making much difference.
  • Protestors/activists can come across over-emotional and ranty.
  • Advocates who are willing to compromise in order to inch toward an outcome cop flack from those who think they’re flaky or unemotional.
  • Public communicators risk only singing to the same choir.

That’s why we need each other, and we need to know in what way we find it easiest to create change.

What this means: What kind of changemaker are you?

Invest in developing that part of yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do things the same way as others.

We all need each other.

4. What about bad news and negative feelings?

It’s true that bad news is shared more quickly and widely than other news. That’s why our news cycle feeds on drama and despair – there’s no money without eyes on pages and screens. Terrible things do need to be addressed. But we need to be really clear about what we’re aiming for when we raise these issues.

What this means: Make sure you have an outlet for feelings like rage or sorrow among people you know and trust. Be careful about how and when you take that public.

While it’s fair to vent about the appalling treatment of women or indigenous people, what’s your goal? Personal processing or creating change?

They’re both valid, but they’re different. Be clear about what you’re trying to achieve.

5. Say less, do more

To quote Mark Twain: “Action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often.” While you may not think you’re taking action, someone has suggested that all you need to determine what a person cares about is access to their bank statements and the call/message list on their phone.

What this means: We have more power than we realise in terms of taking action.

Find the nearest point where the issue impacts you and get hands on.

Write to someone. Give a donation. Start a study group. Pray. Support local women, use less electricity, visit asylum seekers in the community. People tend to follow the example of others more closely than the rhetoric.

Want to know more about the process of persuasion and change?

Read up here

Thinking of helping us share the news about our campaign to beat poverty and build hope?

Below is our campaign video and this is the link to download and share it to your own networks via email or a text to people you think will be interested. You could also share on Facebook and tag some friends who you know will be supportive.

Adapt your caption to suit your own voice, but you could use something like:

“Love this video! A really inspiring look at how UnitingWorld are helping people take control of their lives, build hope and end poverty.

At the moment donations to UnitingWorld will have up to six times the impact due to their partnership with the Australian government, which seems like an incredibly effective way to share our resources. I’m going to donate because (why would you give to this?)  Click the link here if you want to know more.”

 

India’s COVID-19 surge has overloaded its struggling heath system and is causing thousands of deaths per day.

Our Uniting Church partners, the Church of North India (CNI), are not immune. Battling to keep people fed as a second lockdown wreaks havoc, and spreading critical health information to help beat the spread of the disease, they’re on the frontline of the response in their communities.

“The ‘Corona ‘Tsunami’, if one could say that, has left all of us paralysed,” Bishop Khimla of the Diocese of Durgapur told UnitingWorld.  “There is immense suffering as the medical and social infrastructure struggles to cope with the pandemic. The Church has also lost many ministers, both Pastors and Bishops.”

Project Officer Sanjay Khaling was recently hospitalised after contrating COVID-19, while several staff of the Durgapur Education and Social Empowerment project have contracted COVID-19 along with family and friends.

Despite the dangers, the church continues to serve the community as best they’re able. Bishop Samantaroy of the Amritsar Diocese said the church is working on immediate interventions including free distribution of cooked food, dry rations and hygiene products like masks, sanitiser and soap.

Schools have been closed across the area, so girls attending the hostel project in Amritsar have gone home to their villages for at least a month and possibly two. At the Amritsar Social Empowerment and Education project, study centers will continue in each village and the team are doing what they can to support people remotely.

“There has been a drastic rise in cases every day here in Punjab,” Project Coordinator OP Prakash said this week.  “In some [rural] villages people have tested positive but the situation seems under control.”

While this team has experience from last year’s lengthy lockdown, the pandemic is reaching new heights in other areas.

The Eastern Himalayas Education project has had to close the school and move all activities online. Teachers are navigating the difficult task of teaching online while resourcing children who have little or no access to internet or devices.

“We are assured that UnitingWorld continues to be with us in spirit and prayers and believe that this too shall pass,” Bishop Khimla said yesterday. “We very much appreciate your prayers.”

UnitingWorld is supporting our partners to divert project funds to their COVID-19 responses where needed. Donations will be very gratefully received to support their work.

Click here to donate online.

India recorded 323,144 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, amid a surge that has overloaded its struggling heath system and is causing thousands of deaths per day.

UnitingWorld and the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) have reached out to our partners in the Church of North India (CNI) based in West Bengal and Punjab. UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer and UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe have written to Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy to offer prayers and solidarity during the crisis (read full letter).

Our partners are responding to the outbreak at the community level through existing projects, diverting resources to help prevent the spread of disease and aiding vulnerable people impacted by the economic fallout. You can help. Click here to donate online.

Our partners have sent some updates below.

West Bengal

West Bengal this week registered its highest single-day spike of 15,889 cases pushing the tally to 743,950 on Tuesday. The death toll rose to 10,941. The number of active cases currently stands at 88,800.

At the Eastern Himalayas Leadership project we support, project officer Sanjay recently contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalised but is now feeling better.

The Eastern Himalayas Education project has had to close the school and move all activities online. Teachers are working from home, navigating the difficult task of teaching online while also resourcing children who do not have little or no access to internet or devices. They have been communicating via WhatsApp and leaving printed worksheets in safe places for students to collect.

Several staff members of the Durgapur Education and Social Empowerment project have contracted COVID-19 along with family and friends. The project is continuing as normal with added precautions, personal protective equipment and limited interaction.

Punjab

The number of new COVID-19 cases has passed 7,000 per day in Punjab and a daily curfew from 6pm to 5am has been introduced until 12 May. The state has recorded 339,000 total cases and 8,400 deaths.

Schools have been closed across the area, so girls attending the hostel project in Amritsar have gone home to their villages for at least a month and possibly two.

At the Amritsar Social Empowerment and Education project,  schools have closed again so study centers will continue in each village and the team are doing what they can to support people remotely. UnitingWorld Project Manager Dan Maddingham has been in contact with Project Coordinator Om Prakash (OP) this week.

“There has been a drastic rise in cases every day here in Punjab… in some [rural] villages people have tested positive but the situation seems under control,” said OP.

“The Church is doing well but all religious places are remaining closed until further notice and there is a complete curfew and lockdown on weekends.”

Yesterday the Australian Government announced an aid package for India.

Please stand with the people of India and our partners as they lead and support their communities through this this crisis. Join us in prayer (UCA Assembly National Consultant Rev Dr Apwee Ting has written a prayer for India in English and Indonesian Click here to read) and donate as you are able.

UnitingWorld is continuing to support our partners to divert project funds to the COVID-19 response. Additional donations will be gratefully received to support their work.

 

“Loving God and loving our neighbour are woven together as we open our lives to the transforming power of the Risen Christ.”

Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer has shared a sermon for Celebration Sunday, an event to conclude UnitingWorld’s Seven Days of Solidarity.

You can watch it here:

Download the video.

Download the full transcript.

Find out more about Seven Days of Solidarity

Heavy rains across West Timor, Flores and Timor-Leste in early April caused devastating flash floods and landslides in the region.

The latest:

  • In West Timor and Flores, 181 people have died, 47 people are missing and 49,512 have become displaced. Flooding and landslides have also damaged 66,509 houses, hundreds of them wiped out completely.
  • In Timor-Leste, 45 people have been killed by flooding and landslides and 8,852 have been displaced from their homes. Thousands of homes have been badly damaged or totally destroyed.
  • Our church partners in West Timor and Timor-Leste have been responding through their respective development agencies and have asked for support. The need is currently greater than their resources can meet.

UnitingWorld has launched an appeal and has sent initial funds to support the immediate relief effort. Thank you so much to those who have already donated! It helped us be able to quickly support our partners with financial aid and plan for ongoing support. The need is still great, so please give as you are able. Click here to support our appeal for West Timor and Timor-Leste.

 

UPDATES FROM OUR PARTNERS:

West Timor

Moderator of GMIT Rev Mery Kolimon visited a church shelter on Alor Island, West Timor

Our partners in West Timor, GMIT, have been responding to the disaster through their development agency TLM. TLM staff have conducted surveys using their project networks in villages across five regencies (local councils). Due to transport access difficulties and various level of urgency across disaster locations, TLM have focused assistance on four regencies using funds sent by partners, including UnitingWorld.

Funds have been used to buy food aid such as rice, sugar, coffee and cooking oil, instant noodles, eggs, biscuits, powdered milk, instant porridge for babies and first aid supplies, as well as building material such as nails, zinc and cement.

So far, TLM have assisted 2,643 families across five regencies.

 

Timor-Leste

Many houses were completely wiped out in Dili, Timor-Leste’s capital

Our partners in Timor-Leste, IPTL, and their development agency Fusona, have been conducting a rapid emergency response to provide food for 125 families and 135 students that have become isolated by COVID-19 lockdowns and the floods.

Volunteers were trained in safeguarding before going out to identify vulnerable and impacted families across 13 communities. They have also been monitoring the local food prices, as disasters and scarcity tend to push prices up and make them unaffordable for many people. Funds sent have allowed them to purchase food supplies for the emergency response.

Fusona’s volunteers have identified small communities with small or subsistence incomes and students living in boarding houses that have been at risk of starving because they ran out of food and have no means to buy more. Fusona has focused their humanitarian assistance to these groups.

Thousands of people that have evacuated or become displaced continue to take refuge in church buildings and other public facilities.

 

Please continue to support and pray for our partners in Timor-Leste and West Timor

UnitingWorld has launched an appeal to support the emergency relief work of our partners. Funds raised will help provide displaced and vulnerable people with immediate needs of food, shelter and health care. In the longer term, it will support rebuilding, rehabilitation and the re-establishment of people’s livelihoods. Your support will make a huge difference and will be a powerful gesture of solidarity with our close neighbours dealing with the double crisis of floods and COVID-19.

Header image: A GMIT church in Alor Island, a community that was devastated by flooding and landslides.

The Pacific Conference of Churches’ (PCC) annual Pacific Day of Prayer will be observed this year on Friday 7 May.

The liturgy for 2021 year revisits the theme of the 11th PCC General Assembly: ‘Singing the Lord’s Song in Strange Lands and Times.’ Click here to download PDF

The introduction from PCC General Secretary Rev James Bhagwan has been republished below.

Songs of Lament, Songs of Resistance, Songs of Hope

Warm Easter Greetings from the Pacific Conference of Churches Secretariat!

I apologise for the delay in this Pacific Day of Prayer Liturgy which this year, revisits the Theme for the 11th PCC General Assembly and is at the heart of our work from 2019 to 2023: “Singing the Lord’s Song in Strange Lands and Times”.

To say that these past 14 months have been difficult would be an understatement. This has been a major challenge for our Pacific people as also around the world, in a way that we have most likely not faced in the last 100 years. COVID-19 has shown our resilience in many ways. Amid sickness and death, unemployment, increased gender-based violence and socio-economic and political challenges, we have strengthened our spirituality, adapted our worship and drawn on our culture of sharing and caring as community and our indigenous knowledge to survive and help others in need.

Yet while the world’s focus is on COVID-19, in our region we continue to face the impacts of Climate Change – rising seas, ocean warming and acidification and extreme weather such as severe tropical cyclones. Lockdowns have been used to impinge due governance and democratic processes in some Pacific Island countries. Our sisters and brothers under the weight of colonial powers face not only economic, ecological and social oppression, their communities are at risk from COVID-19 because of decisions made by their colonizers. Under closed borders our seafares cannot return home, and while larger countries are not sending their citizens as tourists (thus compounding our economic challenges with the collapse of the tourism industry across the region), they are extracting our people as labourers under seasonal worker programmes and labour schemes to fulfil their needs. Under neo-colonialism and neo-liberal economics, extractive industries further desecrate our land and pillage our sea as many of our governments follow policies that lead us further into the foreign debt trap.

And so we cry our songs of lament, protest, hope and justice.

This year’s material includes some information on the impact of COVID-19 in our region, names of some our leaders who have died and the names of 16 West Papuans who were killed in the last 2 years by Indonesian Security forces.
I appeal to our member churches that we endeavour to make this not only a day of prayer observed by women’s fellowships but use this material throughout the church, whether on 7th of May as the first Friday in May, or during your annual conferences and synods or on another day this year.

God’s blessings and our love be with you all.

Rev. James Bhagwan,
General Secretary
Pacific Conference of Churches

We were so encouraged by your response to our appeal late last year, helping us raise $122,000 to support the COVID-19 response and peacebuilding work carried out by our partners in South Sudan and beyond.

Thank you so much!

A few weeks ago, South Sudan has re-entered a lockdown period due to a spike in cases in Juba. Schools, churches and colleges, including the Nile Theological College, are all closed. Our partners are concentrating on helping educate people about the seriousness of the disease. 43 leaders from communities attended a workshop you helped fund, to learn about the pandemic, its symptoms and the precautions to take.

“Corona virus is a real threat to humanity around the whole world,” the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan writes to us. “South Sudan is not exceptional. The Bible says, ‘my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge’ and we find this to be true. Although all the countries right now are aware of the Coronavirus pandemic, the majority of South Sudanese are still not aware of it… In Juba city itself, people do not observe safety rules. Wearing of face masks and social distancing are not seriously followed… We thank God our partners are always standing on our side to fight the pandemic together in South Sudan.”

Thank you so much for your support and solidarity during this crisis.

A huge thank you to everyone who has taken part in Lent Event and donated to projects that are helping our global neighbours stand strong against COVID-19. Over just the past few weeks, we’ve received $140,000, well on the way to our fundraising target of $330,000.

People like Wayan and his wife (above), who benefited from funding you’ve helped provide to our partners to supply goats and livelihood training, are desperately trying to avoid a return to the challenges they faced a few years ago.

“The food situation for my family is not too bad right now, but my wife has been sick for two weeks now and we have no money for the medicine,” Wayan told us.“14 people in my village area have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and we are really worried, not just because we don’t know how long the pandemic will last, but because we need to be able to keep working. Thank you for giving us a chance in the past, and my dream is that I will once again be able to earn a daily living and provide for my family.”

These are the people for whom your gifts continue to provide hope. Thank you so much! To make a donation, visit www.lentevent.com.au or call us on 1800 998 122.