From trial to hope
As Christmas 2020 approaches, Rodney Winchester was facing one of the most difficult seasons of his life.
Knee surgery had left the single father unable to work for months, which ultimately led to bankruptcy. There was no money to feed her three children or heat their house, and there was no money for Christmas presents.
In a moment of desperation he turned to Christians Against Poverty (CAP) for help and a year later Christmas 2021 couldn’t be more different.
Now back on his feet, Rodney supports CAPs Christmas call so that more people like him can be helped out of poverty.
Christian Today spoke to Rodney and Alex Jones of CAP about how poverty affects ordinary people and the help that is out there.
CT: Rodney, what kind of situation were you in at this time last year and how difficult was life for you before you came into contact with CAP?
Rodney: Around the same time last year, I was making the decision in my head that the children would be better off. That’s how serious it was. We had no money, no fuel oil, no food. I was lucky to have turned on the computer and found CAP. I don’t even know where it came from, it just popped up, just when I had reached this point. For any parent, getting to this point is horrible – when you can’t provide for your children, you’ve achieved the end result.
CT: So Christmas presents were out of the question?
Rodney: Yes, totally out of the question. We had nothing. There was nothing in the fridge, we ran out of credit card money. There is harm – and then there is real harm.
CT: How did this ordeal affect your children?
Rodney: It turned their lives upside down, but I’m lucky we’ve been through so much together because now we’re so close. I turned that around and my 14 year old daughter was just promoted to cadets – being in a situation where she needed the support of social services.
It pushes you because you can see your kids getting better and we’re out of this cycle of debt collectors walking through the door. Once I was on the couch with my leg swollen and the debt collector walked in. I couldn’t even walk.
But on a good note, it brought me and the kids closer together because we had more time together, we had a big garden and things built and we got to know each other again. So there are positive points. You just have to chase them away.
CT: What difference did it make to get in touch with CAP?
Rodney: I had my own home and business and it all escalated with my injured knee, but I was too proud to ask anyone for help. I raised my own kids on the principle of going to work and earning it yourself. There is no easy ride or anything like that.
But I bit the bullet that night and contacted CAP and they asked Heather to work with me. She didn’t judge me at all, she listened to the situation I was in and within four hours there was a food package on the door. There are no words to describe the relief of having food to feed the children. We had gone through the penny pot, there was nothing left. And she organized fuel oil for us and CAP even got me into a contest with a heating company and I got a text a few weeks later saying I won a year of free fuel oil! Everything changed so quickly!
It was just a godsend to be able to turn on the heat because there is no heat or hot water it’s so horrible and yet there was nothing we could do about it. Being able to remove the blankets and walk around the warm house for the first time made all our faces smile.
CT: How different will Christmas be this year?
Rodney: Thanks to CAP, we managed to get food on the table last year and that was the most important thing. The kids did a little something with the things in the garden because we didn’t have any money to spend on gifts. And you have to be in the real world: if you don’t have money, you don’t have money.
This year, we’re celebrating. We have heat and a roof over our heads and I managed to fill the chest freezer with food because I never want to be in that situation again. Itâs the worst ever.
CT: You mentioned that it was difficult to take the first step to ask for help. What would you say to someone else who is having a hard time taking that step and asking for help?
Rodney: Absolutely ask for help because it’s like night and day once someone helps you and advocates for your case. It just takes that pressure off you and means you are not alone. The difference is like flipping a light switch. For CAP to come and relieve me of this pressure was like a godsend. And you’re not judged or despised or said, how come you screwed up. This is important because when you are in this kind of situation, you lose confidence in yourself. When CAP stepped in to help, it was like winning the lottery.
CT: Alex, the economic climate for people in general is quite difficult, with energy costs and food prices rising, but what does this mean for people living below the poverty line?
Alexander: When the pandemic first struck, we saw that those on the margins are the least able to cope with the shocks and shocks of change. Different things affecting people right now include big increases in the cost of living, so things like the costs of food and energy, but also the changes to universal credit in the fall and end. leave.
These all make up the perfect storm, and to some extent we are all affected, but many of us have more headroom to deal with them. Some have remained financially stable during the pandemic due to things like time off, while others have even come out in better financial shape due to things like eating less out of restaurants and not going on vacation. CAP even saw an increase in donations from our supporters who recognized that there were others who were really affected by the pandemic.
CT: Have you noticed an increase in demand for your services?
Alexander: Yes, since October, we have noticed an increase in the number of referrals sent to us for emergency assistance. These are things like emergency heater refills or emergency food stores. If you are already on the sidelines and your budget is already a bit tight, then the shocks and changes in your income can be huge. In fact, we’ve seen a 92% increase in requests for this type of emergency support to help people get through the winter.
CT: How will the increasingly wintry weather impact that?
Alexander: We are not all in the privileged position of being able to turn on the heat without thinking about what it is going to cost. Many of our customers are faced with this very difficult choice of deciding whether to eat or turn on the heat or turn on the lights. So that’s the kind of emergency aid we provide – heat and food.
CT: What is the Christmas call on?
Alexander: It’s about people like Rodney who, last Christmas, were wondering how he was going to get away with this. He was able to receive the support of CAP and his local church, and now he and his family are in a much better position and can look forward to a safe Christmas without facing these horribly difficult choices.
CT: For families who have to make this kind of choice, is the cost of Christmas heavy?
Alexander: It depends on the individual customers, but we live in a culture that places a great deal of importance on Christmas and we create expectations and hopes around it. So maybe families with children who go to school and hear about their friends and the gifts they receive can feel that more. It is not uncommon for parents on the margins to skip meals so that their children can eat properly. All parents want to provide the best for their children, so this is a really tough place for parents.
This is where our local church partners will often step in by hosting Christmas meals and making toy calls to make sure these things are planned. The real difference comes when the local church gets involved because it can offer that kind of face to face support and bring a little more hope and light into people’s lives, especially around Christmas time. Our partner churches are very good at making sure there is that extra support.
CT: The Christmas Call aims to raise Â£ 70,000. What will it go to?
Alexander: We want to provide more emergency support – things like emergency food stores, refills, school uniforms – all of those essential things that keep people connected and make sure they have them. bases.
Obviously there are long term needs to help people get off debt and find a budget that is right for them, but there are also very immediate needs and emergency support can help them get through these. very difficult times.
We are inspired by Jesus who said he came to have life in all its fullness. What does it look like when you make the difficult choice to feed your family or heat your house, when you have a low salary and you don’t know how to give your family hope for the future that you? would like to give them?
It’s a tough time for people and we know a lot of people will be affected and we want to be there for them.
CT: The campaign is called âChristmas in Colorsâ. What is the meaning behind this?
Alexander: Rodney spoke about how the support of the local church and the food store just in time for Christmas showed him how much people cared for him and he began to feel the color returning to his life. He and his family are a great example of how small acts of kindness can bring color to people’s lives and enable them to face a better future.
CT: We may see yet another lockdown. Do you think this will have a financial impact?
Alexander: It’s all a bit unknown, but what we have known from the start is the importance of sustaining the increase in universal credit, as the government has rightly recognized that there are additional support needs for marginalized people. But that increase was phased out earlier this fall and now that support is no longer there. It is possible that a future lockdown will see some of the things we saw last time around, with work becoming more precarious and the pressures of home schooling returning. Part of the emergency support we provided last year was actually aimed at providing children with mobile devices so they can continue to learn during the lockdown.