ACTS 435 has at its root a very simple idea: that is to connect people who are in need with people who want to help.
The success of the online charity lies in its simplicity and in the fact that time and again, it has been proven that a small gift can make a significant difference.
Sixty advocates recently gathered for a workshop day to share their experiences of using Acts 435 and of how versatile it is. Organic growth has led the charity, which I set up in 2010, to help 5,000 people in its first five years, and just two years later it has already helped the 10,000th person.
The stories of those individual lives reached by Acts 435 are remarkable. Mark found himself homeless after his flat-mate wanted to live on his own, and then for a short period without work, due to ill health.
Acts 435 provided Mark with a tent, camping stove and bicycle. This meant that he was able to sleep in the local park away from the drug and alcohol scene in the town centre, and was then able to get work using the bicycle. Mark was resourceful and resilient as he faced challenges in his life, but the financial support Acts 435 provided was also crucial in turning things around.
Restore is a Christian charity based in York which provides accommodation and support for people from York who would otherwise be homeless. Many of the people arrive with very few, if any, possessions. Acts 435 has helped with clothes for many vulnerable tenants, with work boots, and transport costs.
The Parson Cross Initiative is run on a huge sprawling social housing estate in Sheffield. Nick, who is a lay preacher at Mount Tabor Methodist Church, is also chaplain of two of the schools and has linked in with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The Citizens Advice Bureau team says “without Acts 435 no one in Parson Cross could go debt free”.
This is a familiar story of so few other resources or funds available to people in poverty. Those which are available often have such stringent requirements it can be very difficult to get the funds.
Acts 435 advocate Nick explained that he had been invited and accompanied the school’s education and welfare officer to see a woman whose husband had left her and her daughter, taking all the money and leaving behind the bills. Nick was able to raise money to help pay some of the bills through Acts 435 and such timely intervention helped to rebuild someone’s confidence and trust in very isolating circumstances.
For individuals who are continually struggling to manage and who are living day by day, one thing can quickly propel them into a crisis or to reach a tipping point. Be this an unexpected bill or repair cost, a sudden change in personal circumstances or the death of a loved one, fleeing from domestic abuse or accessing debt relief orders, Acts 435 can be used to meet so many different needs.
Acts 435 takes its name from the book of Acts in the Bible where the early church (in chapter 4, verse 35) shared their possessions and gave to anyone in need. It works through participating churches and charities, who meet with the people in need and post the requests onto the Acts 435 website (www.acts435.org.uk).
The 2015-16 winter floods prompted an outpouring of generosity for those affected in our local communities. It is part of our nature to reach out to those in need. Rather than responding to one-off disasters, Acts 435 provides the mechanism by which we can make that sort of generosity part of our daily living. Giving generously is made simple through the wonders of technology, which is harnessed here to do good.
It is completely free for churches and charities to use. The administration costs are fully funded by Gift Aid from eligible donations.
When donors give to Acts 435 requests on the website, 100 per cent of what they give goes directly to the person in need. So if John in Leeds needs a cooker and a donor gives £80, the full £80 will go to John and his cooker.
The local church or charity is able to give feedback to the donors about the difference it makes for that person.
To join Acts 435 www.acts435.org.uk/join or to give www.acts435.org.uk/give
Dr John Sentamu is the Archbishop of York.