Looking back over the last several months, it all seems fairly romantic now. I can so clearly see how God guided me towards the CAP internship programme, Lead. A year and a half ago, my student years were rapidly coming to an end. What’s next? I wondered. Where does God want me?
With graduate schemes, career seminars and situational judgment tests exhausted, I had no idea why I wasn’t getting anywhere. And one day, a friend on Facebook posted about a vacancy at CAP.
A Christian charity. A paid internship. Four days in a department suited to me, learning amazing skills. Personal development. A year of journeying! The benefits seemed to be all mine. And that is how it has continued to feel. I know CAP gains a lot from the programme, however I truly really feel that the privilege is the interns’.
So without further ado, these are my top ten reasons why joining Lead was one of the best decisions I ever made.
We all have talents. We just don’t know what they are. The module ‘Who am I?’ involves strengths tests, personality exploring and self analysis to present a framework from which to understand how God has made you and who you are.
CAP really brings the best to the table. CAP sees the internship as kingdom work and investing in the next generation of leaders, employing interns with leadership potential and managers who are selfless, Christ-centred and others-focused. If you are successful in interview, it’s because you are meant to be here.
People care about you. I don’t think I have ever been in such an encouraging, positive environment. I am a key member of the team, not simply the person who boils the kettle. My input and ideas are as valued and considered as a long-serving team member.
You are given opportunities to bring change. Initiative is welcomed. Opportunities I have been given to lead range from managing the kitchen for a two-course formal meal for 50, to hosting a fundraising dinner table, to researching on key areas with a view to presenting a project to the Core Team.
People want you to be all you can be. Ellie, my mentor, is dedicated to seeing me grow. Jaz, who manages the Internship, always has an open door. Crispin, my manager, is open and transparent. Each person I’ve come across at CAP has been keen to challenge and bring insight into what they see in you.
The internship group is an integral part to the year. When else in your life will you be living, learning and working with like-minded people? Our group is intent on caring, loving, upholding and supporting one another. The culture of openness allows vulnerability which transforms and leads to self discovery.
I understand the way of work. I wanted to gain a good working ethic and learn about formal working practices. We have had sessions about managing people, time management and 360 leadership (receiving feedback from those in your team, below you and above you), to name a few.
Your skills are matched to put you in a department that is the right for you where you will thrive and be motivated. Amongst other roles, some speak to clients on the phone; some build budgets and support clients in repaying; some plan events; some support our network of centres and some build and nurture our supporter database.
I am a better me. I have grown so much over the last year. I have a greater understanding of who I am and who God has made me to be. God has truly enabled me to distinguish and understand my character – and I thought I had a pretty good idea of this before I arrived!
My goal is set. Being at CAP has helped me to trace my desires for the future. We all have different paths ahead of us, but for most of us, we know that whatever shape it takes, contact with CAP won’t end mid-August. I know I want to be doing what God is doing for the rest of my life: serving the poor, saving the lost, through the church, across the nation.
Kevan has been working for more than ten years as a paramedic in London and it’s one of those jobs where you see people at crises point all the time.
One night in 2014, he was called out, as a first response to a woman who had overdosed on both alcohol and medication.
As he worked to keep her alive, he silently gave the situation to God acknowledging that there was only so much he could do.
“I’m in the fortunate position of being a Christian and I can pray for her while I’m doing it so I sat there and said OK God, I can do this medical stuff, you do the healing, you can do the real work.”
He wondered what had led to this point in her life, a woman with so much lif to live and four children relying on her.
Kev thought: “She’s so, so desperate she thinks they would be better off without her. This would almost certainly have been fatal and even worse, one of the four children would have found her and had to deal with that.”
The last time he saw her, she was being violently sick as she was wheeled into the back of an ambulance by Kevan’s colleagues.
What he didn’t know was God was going to let him see the end of the story as well.
18 months later, he was off duty and relaxing round the table of a CAP event.
A lady called Paula was introduced as a client who had been helped with her debt problems and her face appeared on the screen at the front.
Her hair was carefully done, she was wearing smart clothes and had a bright smile but he immediately recognised her.
This was the lady who had overdosed and nearly died.
“She was happy, smiling, bright, bubbly, no longer alcohol, had given her life to God, had overcome so much, sorted out her debt – and all in just 18 months!”
“I thought, you are a completely different person! I recognise the face but I don’t recognise the person.
“This is such a project, such a charity that it needs to be out there, it needs to be given to people. It’s not just making a difference to people’s finances. This is saving people’s lives.”
Homeless and sleeping in a graveyard until CAP saved me, says fundraiser
07 June 2016
We all know that CAP's life-transforming work is not exclusive to our clients - and Lancashire man Ashley Parkinson is proof. When the now 57 year-old was homeless and sleeping in a graveyard, he would never have thought that two years on he would be planning to walk 240 miles to raise money for the Christian charity that turned his life around.
Yet here we are, with Ashley undertaking a mammoth fundraising walk to raise awareness of homelessness, hunger and debt. The trek will cover 240 miles from Clitheroe, Lancashire to Westminster, London, during which he will visit several CAP debt centres along the way.
In 2014, Ashley’s business had gone down and he was no longer able to afford his rent. Eventually he lost his house and found himself homeless, ending up back in his hometown of Clitheroe. Ashley had worked in the local cemetery in the 1980s and knew the public toilets were left unlocked overnight – and it was there, in the winter of 2014, that he found himself sleeping.
‘It was awful,’ Ashley recalls. ‘No human should have to live like that. In my lowest moment, I was sitting on a bench just before Christmas, looking out towards the town, and it started to rain. I was thinking about how I’d been trying so hard to get work and was failing all the time. I felt so miserable, so let down, and I couldn’t see a way out.’
Ashley spent two months sleeping in a graveyard when he ended up homeless
For two freezing cold months, Ashley slept in the cemetery toilets, just trying to survive the winter. Until one day, while sitting in a nearby park, a man came along.
The man was Colin Wrighton, who happened to be a former CAP client. He came across Ashley quite by chance, and invited him to a coffee morning which CAP had organised at St James’ Church for clients in the area.
‘I didn’t see how they could help me, this bunch of Christians, but they were all welcoming and non-judgmental,’ Ashley explains. ‘I couldn’t believe that these people who I once would have sneered at could be so friendly.’
He says that the coffee morning and meeting CAP was a turning point in his journey. ‘The love and kindness they showed me drove me onwards. Through CAP I found places like my old church and the local foodbank. It gave me somewhere to go to get some food and a drink, instead of having to go to the betting shop and pretend to put on a bet just to get the free coffee!’
Two years on from his lowest point, Ashley has a roof over his head and a new life, and he is determined to raise CAP’s profile. ‘So many people still don’t know what CAP is and does so I want to highlight the life-transforming work they do,’ he says.
The walk will kick off on 11 June and Ashley is expected to cover a whopping 15 miles a day! The CAP centres he plans to visit include Blackburn, Radcliffe, Altrincham, Middlewich, Crewe, Market Drayton, Stafford, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Coventry, Rugby, Northampton, Bedford, St Albans and London South, finishing up in Westminster after an estimated 18 days. Whew!
‘God asked me to do this walk,’ Ashley explains. ‘It wasn’t my idea. I feel like he’s been preparing me for this my whole life. I used to be a postman and thought it was such a waste of time and energy walking all over the place, but now I think it was all part of the plan!
Ashley will walk 240 miles from Clitheroe to Westminster to raise funds for CAP
‘I feel this is a chance to make people aware of what it’s like to be homeless, to go without food, and to show people that it’s unacceptable. I’m doing it for four groups of people – those who are homeless, those who are hungry, those who are suffering with debt, and finally for all the people who have helped me out of my predicament.
‘God willed me to go to the capital and I intend to pray outside of parliament when I get there, for all these vulnerable people in the UK.’
Along the way, Ashley is inviting people to walk with him. ‘Whether it’s for a few hundred yards, a mile or a longer distance, I would love people to get involved and walk alongside me. It would be a great motivation and I’d appreciate the company too!’
Pam Entwistle, CAP’s Centre Manager in Clitheroe, who has been a guide and confidante to Ashley since 2014, will be setting off with him. ‘Ashley is showing admirable stamina in undertaking this challenge. It is going to be a real pilgrimage for him and a great event for CAP – I urge everyone to get involved in any way they can, whether it be by walking with him, making a donation, or just telling people about what he’s doing!’
From left to right: Colin Wrighton, Ashley Parkinson, Pam Entwistle
‘I can’t wait to get started,’ Ashley adds. ‘I don’t actually want to stop at Westminster – I want to continue to St Michael’s Mount! I want to show that the issues I’m highlighting don’t stop when I finish this walk – they’re still ongoing, still real, and still a problem.’
All true, but we wonder if Ashley will still be saying that when he’s 240 miles gone! Either way, CAP wishes him the best of luck in this incredible endeavour and urges everyone who can to get on board and support him in one way or another.
A 60 second guide to Universal Credit
06 June 2016
What is it?
A re-organisation of the benefits system, rolling six benefits into one monthly payment.
What’s the point?
It aims to encourage people back to work by gradually reducing the payment when someone finds a job. It also gets people used to a monthly payday.
When’s it happening?
That depends on where you live - it’s being rolled out across the UK one Jobcentre Plus at a time. However, if you’re not making a new claim, it won’t come along until June 2018. Live in Northern Ireland? You can expect to see Universal Credit introduced in 2017.
What are the issues?
Couples will get one joint payment
It will be all online
There will be delays and
Landlords will not be paid rent directly in the majority of cases.
If so, the new system of Universal Credit is going to make big changes to how you receive your benefits. In a nutshell, Universal Credit combines six benefits into one system of monthly payment, like a monthly wage. Applications will be dealt with entirely online and will be paid directly into your bank account.
The aim is to make it simpler but with any shake-ups, there’s always a few teething problems.
Universal Credit will be managed online, a big issue if you don’t have access to the internet. However, most Job Centres have in-house computers and offer training. The Department of Work and Pensions are aware this change to on-line is going to be a big issue and the Job Centre will be able to give you support. If in doubt, ask.
Another worry factor could be the monthly payments. Under the old system a lot of benefits like Jobseekers Allowance were paid fortnightly. Universal credit will mean waiting for a month before the next payment and you’ll need to be really careful to ensure you don’t leave yourself short for all the essentials like rent, bills and food.
Should you worry about free school meals as they used to be given depending on the type of benefits you received? No one’s too sure quite what will happen with this but the Department for Education will tell us in due course.
There are concerns about rent, especially. Housing Benefit used to be paid directly to the landlord but, under the new system, most people will get the whole amount and have to pay the landlord themselves. It will seem like a lot of money at the start but it has some key places to go – and you’re in charge of that. There may also be a delay as you move over to Universal Credit. Ask at your Job Centre Plus about any possible delays and keep your landlord in the picture with what’s happening. As this is going to be swapped over area by area, your landlord will likely be having this situation with several tenants if they own more than just your property.
What if you get behind with things? Well, payments will be taken from the Universal Credit automatically. Rent arrears, benefit overpayments, energy arrears, budgeting loans etc can all be taken at source but only up to 40% of the total of the total amount you’d have normally received. Still unsure? Talk to your work coach.
In fact, asking for support is a good idea. It’s up to your work coach to inform you about what help is available. If you need help, ask for it!
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