Many simply assume that Lewes is home only to those who can afford the exorbitant house-prices and to shop at Waitrose every week, but you might be surprised to know that statistics show over 20% of children in the Lewes district are living in poverty. (It is a bit lower in the actual town, for example Landport 11%). endchildpoverty.org.uk
Of course poverty here does not look like the pictures we see of people starving, or refugees living in tents, in other areas of the world but it still has a big impact on those living around us. For example, according to Department for Education statistics, by the end of primary school, pupils receiving free school meals (available only to those from low-income families) are estimated to be almost three terms behind their more affluent peers. Children from low-income families are more likely to die at birth or in infancy than children born into richer families, and are more likely to suffer chronic illness during childhood, or to have a disability. cpag.org.uk
And of course it’s not just about children, if they are living in households with low enough income to be classed as being ‘in poverty’, then so are their parents or carers. This is happening right here on our doorsteps, in our communities, not in a foreign land but perhaps with our own neighbours, friends, or those we worship with on a Sunday.
So what does this mean for us, as Christians, as a church and as neighbours? Of course the bible talks about loving our neighbour and helping the poor but what should that actually look like? In Luke 3:11 John the Baptist tells the crowd who ask, what should we do?
“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
And in Isaiah 58 God talks to Isaiah in a vision, saying:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
TRINITY already supports the local foodbanks, which is a great start and we know from experience that there are many in dire need locally being helped through them. So be encouraged that when you pop some pasta or a tin of veggies into the box, they will actually make a real difference to someone’s life. But to some extent this is only a partial remedy, that one academic described as “a sticking plaster on the gaping wound of poverty”. We need to go a step further and begin to think about why people need to go to foodbanks in the first place, in the 21st Century, here in a relatively well off area. As the old saying goes, give a man a fish and he feeds himself for a day; teach him to fish and he can feed himself for life.
So where do we start? Well TRINITY is linking up with a new initiative called ‘End Hunger UK’ endhungeruk.org which has been formed by various charities and organisations – secular and religious – to encourage people to think deeper about poverty in their own communities. As part of this we are hosting a ‘Big Conversation’ to gather people across the town who are looking at this issue, or working on it already. We hope that in doing so we can gather resources, work together and be more effective to reach those who truly need help and support, at ground level.
We are hosting our Big Conversation on Thurs 23rd February, 7.30pm (venue TBC). The evening will be designed around a group discussion, to get people talking and listening. We want to ask what’s happening already and how can we work with you? Please help us spread the word – can you invite those you know who have a heart for this issue or are working in this area?
Let’s share our food with the hungry, or give away a coat to someone in need, but more than that, let’s seek to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke that keep people trapped in poverty.
facebook.com/endhungerlewes / #EndHungerLewes / endhungeruk.org