Advocate Spotlight - Paul Cowdell
Posted on July 25th, 2018 at 2:04PM
When I first met Joanne, Christians Against Poverty centre manager for Retford, her first words were what 'a true blessing' Acts 435 was, and that she didn't know what they would have done without it.
Meanwhile, I was bowled over by what a lovely building they had. Retford Baptist Church took the brave step in the early 2000s to demolish their old building (dating back to the 17th century) and build in its place a lovely multi-purpose place of worship and community. It was great to see round and hear about all the different ways the building is used, and what a good reputation it has in the area, as well as the story behind it becoming known as The Well.
I was amazed to hear that the local authority paid for some of Joanne's CAP salary - I have met a lot of CAP centre managers, many funded by a group of churches working together, others by just one church. I had never come across this and it is an amazing testimony to the work of Christians Against Poverty that the local authority can recognise its value in such a tangible way.
Things work so much better in partnership, and at The Well, they had even employed this principle in how they use Acts 435. When Joanne first heard of Acts 435 she went to the assistant pastor singing our praises. He then approached Paul Cowdell about it, who is now our advocate! Joanne did not have the capacity to take on the work of Acts 435 (CAP centre manager is a very demanding job) and Paul, a lecturer on banking and finance, had already shown his commitment to the poor by going on CAP visits. He accepted the role of advocate and now they are a good example of how the role can be divided.
Paul is our point of contact for Acts 435. He also posts Retford Baptist Church's requests onto the system and the thank you messages from beneficiaries. However, it is Joanne who is meeting with the individuals and families who need help. The Well was running a job-club and Paul was also linking in with the Job Club manager, Steve, in the same way. Steve was meeting with the people in need and supporting them. When a need was identified for Acts 435, he sent the information to Paul to do the online part. As Paul says, it is a user-friendly system and a very easy job to be an advocate - but he is providing an amazing source of funds for the needs Steve and Joanne see.
Their partnership doesn't stop there - they also link in with a local charity for the supply of white goods at an affordable price which means that collectively, between Acts 435 and this charity, a real difference can be made with the money donated on the website.
The needs in the community are vast, though replicated across the country: single guys without a job, families on low income, single parents facing eviction (and often facing so many other issues with the children and the mother's health). One person in particular they mentioned had just lost his job and was facing anxiety and depression. He was paying over the odds for a Brighthouse cooker and washer, at £15 a week, which was having a big impact on his tight income.
A request was posted on the Acts 435 website and the funds were given. The local Retford charity stepped in to make up the shortfall and by providing this man with a cooker and washing machine, it alleviated a lot of stress from him and gave him the confidence to keep going. He was also borrowing money for everything he needed and the fact he has a bit more breathing space now and doesn't need to do that puts him in a much better position with his friends.
Harry (not his real name) had a difficult childhood. He was brought up by a single mum along with several other children all by different fathers. During his formative years, Harry’s various 'parents' suffered from alcohol and drug abuse.
He first came into contact with Retford Baptist Church via the Job Club which was run out of the local church. His self-esteem was low and his clothes were ragged. In July 2016, Acts donors provided funds for new clothes. This was particularly helpful as he had been invited to a wedding and had been ashamed to accept the invitation until he received the new clothes.
In May 2017, Acts donors provided support for a course to prepare people to work for British Rail. He passed every test first time. However, he was unable to get a job on the railway. Nevertheless, the course helped Harry to understand the meaning of work and work ethics, so he progressed from here by holding down jobs in restaurants, working unsocial hours.
However, Harry has now found a job working for a small business in the local area. He has impressed the owners by coming up with cost saving ideas and the business is prospering. Harry is almost ready to move into a private rental accommodation, and his boss has provided financial support for the upfront bond. Harry has also been sent on training courses which involved overnight accommodation at good quality hotels.
In short, the two Acts 435 donations have helped Harry turn his life round.