Norwich church's acts of kindness for total strangers
A violin for a refugee, clothes to attend a funeral, heating oil and a washing machine are just some of the things a Norwich church has been able to provide to needy and desperate people in the city, thanks to an award-winning Christian crowd-funding charity. Jenny Seal reports.
Acts 435 has developed an innovative way to bring joy and relief to thousands of people across the country, including dozens in Norwich, who are in desperate financial need. It uses its crowd-funding website to link them to kind-hearted donors who have the resources and desire to fund these simple acts of much-needed kindness for complete strangers.
To date, the Acts 435 website has helped over 16,000 people nationally with donations totalling £1.6m.
In Norwich’s Catton Grove area, Carol Woodward from Oak Grove Community Church is an enthusiastic advocate of Acts 435. She has volunteered with the charity for over three years and describes it as “the best role in the church”.
“We actually made our first appeal for a violin,” said Carol. “The lady was a refugee and hadn’t managed to bring her violin with her, but for her mental well-being she needed to play. It seems an odd one but actually in the circumstances it was very important that she had one.”
Carol recalls another successful appeal for a weighted blanket. A local school identified the need for the blanket to help a child with special needs sleep better but the family couldn’t afford to buy it.
“I left the weighted blanket in the school office,” said Carol. “It was last Christmas and there were Carols on the Playground so I went to that. The mum actually sought me out and gave me this huge hug. She just couldn’t express fully how much it would mean to her family if this child slept.
“It’s a real joy,” said Carol. “People think you’re the most wonderful person in the world and I really am not! But it’s because you are meeting that need when they didn’t see how they could get it otherwise.
“Since 2015 we have had £3,270 given to local people funded by anonymous donors,” she said. “And it’s grown, with £1,300 given this year. It’s just fantastic.”
Carol works with two local schools that refer families in need to her. She also comes across people through Oak Grove Community Church’s projects which include a charity shop, a parent and toddler group and a Money Advice Centre.
The needs of over 30 local people have successfully been met through Carol’s Acts 435 advocacy. This has included the purchase of funeral clothes, stairgates, debt relief orders, a washing machine and oil for heating.
Carol said: “It’s the church being awake to what they hear and giving practical help.”
In November, Acts 435 was recognised when it won the national award for ‘Best Replicable Project’ at the Christian Funders Forum Awards in London.
Donors can select the geographical area they would like to give to and a category of giving, such as children or elderly people, white goods or ill health. They can then contribute anything from £5 to a maximum of the balance left to raise.
Acts 435 is dependent on volunteers within local churches who sign up as Advocates. These Acts 435 advocates identify people within their local community who genuinely need an item costing up to £120 (or £240 in exceptional circumstances) but who can’t afford it. The advocate uploads a short description of the circumstances onto the website and then arranges for the item to be purchased if the money is successfully crowdfunded.
Carol is certain that any church could do it and would encourage more churches around Norwich and Norfolk to get involved. “There is no catch,” she said. “It is just the church doing what the church is doing. It works because there are generous people out there.”
Pictured above is Carol Woodward.