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A day doing nothing?

calendar14 January 2020

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

A day doing nothing?

What if you had to spend the day doing nothing? An attractive prospect if you’re a busy person, perhaps. But what if this wasn’t your choice? No work, no friends round, no television, music, books, social media, post or phone calls. No leaving the house. Curtains stay closed. No food or drink, apart from a glass of water and a slice of bread and a little jam. That’s what Colchester Debt Centre Manager, Paula Goddard, did to raise money for our work here at Christians Against Poverty.

Working for CAP, Paula knows that many of her clients have had to live with this situation every day. Eight out of ten debt clients say they feel lonely or isolated before getting help. One in five say they don’t leave their house for a week or more. The loneliness makes their outlook feel even worse. Paula found herself feeling anxious just a few hours into her 'Do Nothing Day'. 

'The first two hours are spent fighting the urge to go back to sleep and with thoughts jumping around my head. Conversations I’ve had and need to have, what was said and what needs to be said.'

With no distractions of TV, internet or phone due to energy worries or disconnection, isolation creeps in. Food and, even water, is rationed.

'Our clients will limit water usage to keep the bill lower. By 10am, I needed my glass of water. The room was dark and my thoughts were still battling for space in my head. I was cold so pulled the duvet round me, by 11.30am I was so hungry I gave in and had my slice of bread. I took the bread back up to my room and sat eating slowly to try and make it last. Oh my! It tasted so good! It really was the only highlight of the day.'

However, this highlight was short-lived.

'By 1pm I was lethargic again and cold, I laid down with the duvet wrapped around me and my thoughts started running again and that was the longest three hours of the day because I knew I had an end to what I can only describe as mental hell, especially as it started getting darker.'

Paula’s was an experiment, a fundraiser she chose to do for charity for the day and she reflected that for people living with poverty, it must seem relentless.

'For the people out there needing our help, there is no easy end to the mental turmoil. There is no dinner waiting later with the family. There is no switching off in front of the TV with a cup of tea.'

Poverty doesn’t just affect someone's trip to the supermarket or the stuff they can or can't have. The isolation debt brings can deeply affect someone on an emotional and psychological level. 

If you help CAP in any way, through giving of your time, efforts, money and especially through prayers, thank you so much. It's because of you that we're able to bring hope to people feeling so alone.

Five minutes with… Justine Barnes

calendar28 November 2019

Claire Wong's avatar Claire Wong

Five minutes with… Justine Barnes

Hi Justine! What’s it like being Head of People Operations at CAP?

It’s great! I oversee recruiting new staff at our head office and selecting our frontline staff too, along with everything HR-related.

What drew you to CAP in the first place?

It was my own experiences of debt that brought me to CAP. My first husband struggled with drug addiction and unfortunately our relationship broke down. When we separated, I found that he had taken out loans in my name and I was left with about £50,000 of debt. I was a single mum by this point and couldn’t afford to pay the debt, I had bailiffs calling regularly and so I took myself through bankruptcy and allowed my house to be repossessed.

A year later (2012), I saw that CAP was looking to recruit a Debt Advisor. I immediately felt drawn to the role as I had my own practical experience of putting together a financial statement and working with creditors to draw from as well as an understanding of how it felt for CAP clients.

By this time I'd come out the other side, but I remembered what it was like to hide bills under the breadbin and ignore the door when somebody knocked. As soon as I heard my application was successful, I decided that I would always talk openly with clients about my experience. There can be such a stigma attached to bankruptcy and people really responded to hearing my story. One of my old clients found me years later and said, “Thank you so much for sharing your story about bankruptcy. We decided to do it because of you and now we’re out of debt.”

Why did you make the switch from Debt Advisor to People Operations?

While I was on maternity leave, I learned that they needed someone to join the team. I’d never thought about doing HR until that moment, and I really feel it was a God moment that I suddenly thought ‘maybe I could do that!’ So I applied to this new role for when I came back from mat leave.

What’s the best thing about your job?

My favourite part of working in People Operations is making sure we look after our staff well, I love to find new ways to invest in our staff team. We recently put in place a new Reward and Wellbeing programme, taking care of our employees physical and mental health whilst trying to provide a great work life balance. We provide flexible working, an Employee Assistance Programme, long service awards, mental Health Days, a learning library, staff conferences and revive days - amongst other things!

What does flexible working mean for you?

Flexible working is brilliant for my family. I started out working 9 to 5, but since having a second child I needed to do things differently. I was able to change my hours to work full time but over four days. I work in the evenings and this means I’m available to drop my kids off at school and I can go to school assemblies and sports days. I can work from home when I need to. I really value that I can put my family first without my work taking a hit.

What’s it like to work at a Christian organisation like CAP?

What I love about it is that people genuinely want to look after each other. It’s not just about your work and performance, we take a holistic view of each person – what’s going on at home, where do they want to go next in their career, what are they passionate about? We’re family friendly. You can work part time and have a senior role. My story is that I’ve been so invested in by CAP and now I get to invest in others.

Like the sound of working at CAP? Find out about available roles at capuk.org/jobs

The time to act on UK debt is now

calendar26 November 2019

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

The time to act on UK debt is now

A decade ago the majority of problem debt came from credit cards, store cards and loans.

Today, the UK is increasingly struggling with priority debts like mortgage, rent, utility and Council Tax arrears, all with serious consequences when unpaid.

The truth is, at CAP, we're increasingly meeting people who are going without the basic essentials to try to pay back what they owe.

Choosing between feeding your family or facing eviction is the kind of decision no one should have to make – especially in modern Britain.

Usually at this time of year, we ask our supporters to help fund Christmas hampers for clients. This season is a bit different.

While our local centres will continue to bless families with hampers and vital food aid, right now we urgently need you to do what you can to join us in tackling this crisis.

Amid the General Election focus, with promises aplenty, we must remember the poorest because the truth is: demand for debt advice has never been higher.

One debt client, Susanna, lost the ability to earn a living due to cancer and a subsequent relationship breakdown.

She faced losing her home as she was unable to pay her mortgage and, feeling trapped and hopeless, began to believe suicide was the only way out.

Thanks to the love of her local church and CAP’s Debt Help she is facing her first Christmas debt free, proving situations can drastically change for the better with the right support.

Alongside local churches, we’re working with thousands of families to make sure they won’t have to face another Christmas in debt.

We can’t sit back and let poverty wreak havoc across our nation. The time to act is now.

Donate now

Five minutes with… Thomas Allen and Kgosi Ngwenya

calendar18 November 2019

Claire Wong's avatar Claire Wong

Five minutes with… Thomas Allen and Kgosi Ngwenya

Many of our staff are so keen to work at CAP’s head office that they choose to relocate to Yorkshire for the opportunity to work here. We spoke to two people who did just that!

Hello and thanks for talking to us today! Tell us who you are and where you’re from.

KGOSI: I’m from the Republic of Ireland and I’m a Debt Advisor currently working to get our Scottish clients debt free.

THOMAS: And I’m in the Insolvency team, helping clients who unfortunately can’t afford to repay their debts so need a different solution. I grew up in Cornwall.

What brought you to CAP?

T: To cut a long story short, I was a finance officer. I took a month out from that job to go on a short-term mission trip to Swaziland. Having seen what the church there was doing with people who don’t have much, I came back wanting to help people living in poverty. I felt God saying that I didn’t need to travel halfway round the world to do that. I didn’t know much at that time about UK poverty, but the more I learned about it, the more I knew that’s what God was calling me to do, so I came here to work for CAP.

K: I come from a legal background. I studied law at university and wanted to pursue becoming a solicitor. I started working for a firm specialising in insolvency, but in private firms, making profits is necessary for survival; this can complicate the aim to be charitable and make a real difference. I moved to CAP so that I could be free to pursue helping vulnerable and poorer people without those challenges.

What was it like moving to Bradford for a new job?

T: I knew I wanted to come to work at CAP no matter the sacrifice. But until that point I was a real country boy, so living in a city so far from the sea was a bit weird. For the first few months I’ll be honest, I was homesick. But by God’s grace I got through it, and now I really love living in Bradford. The most important thing was being part of a church which builds you up. It was very easy to find one with a wide variety of churches in Bradford to choose from, and people at CAP even helped with suggestions of places to try out!

K: I lived in a rural Irish town where most people were farmers. God’s always challenged me to go wherever he calls me though, so I just follow what he says and he makes good of it. I didn’t have any qualms. When I came here I was really excited to see how God’s at work in Bradford.

Now that you’re here at CAP, what does a normal day in the office look like for you?

T: I’ll be preparing applications for clients to go insolvent and talking them through that, making sure they know what to expect. But at any point, a client might phone up saying ‘I’ve got an Enforcement Agent at the door, what do I do?’ I’d be lying if I said it’s not stressful when that happens, even though you’re equipped to deal with it, because it’s this person’s life and you want to give them the best help. The reward is seeing people released from poverty, seeing the Church come alongside people and the amazing change that happens then.

K: In the Scotland team, we cover the entire spectrum of casework. I could be preparing a budget or recommending the best route out of debt for someone. It can be tricky if things change unexpectedly, if illness leads to them not being able to go back to work for example. But then we celebrate when someone goes debt free – everyone plays instruments and makes lots of noise. It’s a huge blessing to be part of changing someone’s life for the better. It’s beyond fulfilling!

Tell us about a highlight from your work!

K: I got a call from a client. A guy who was really struggling with the guilt of debt. He felt really hopeless, saying he was suicidal, but he was also a Christian so I was able to encourage him that God loves him and has a future planned for him. I got to pray for him and by the end of the call he was in such good spirits, saying, ‘I can feel hope there and I can get through this.’ That absolutely made my day.

T: Going through bankruptcy costs £680. I had a client call up in a panic because she didn’t know if she’d ever be able to get that money, and didn’t think she could get through the process. She was getting really stressed before I’d had a chance to say anything. Then I told her that we’d managed to get a grant for £680 to pay her fee. It was met with ten seconds of silence and then crying with joy. She was so thankful. I almost cried on the call as well because you could hear such a weight off her shoulders.

What’s the best thing about working for CAP?

K: For me, the best thing is how much God’s used us as a charity. In 23 years, thousands and thousands of people have become debt free. And so many people have come to faith.

T: I love that we get spiritual time every morning. It’s really helpful for the rest of the day to get your mind in the right place. I’m not here for my own benefit. It’s not just a job. God’s called me here to see people released from poverty.

If you feel like God might be calling you to use your skills to help people escape poverty, check out the jobs we’re recruiting for!

Feeling SAD?

calendar08 November 2019

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Feeling SAD?

When I was a kid, I used to love summer. There were the summer holidays, and a lot more heat and light and colour and sun. But over the years autumn has taken over as one of my favourite seasons of the year. I love the colour of the leaves standing out against the grey of the sky, I love the food, I love Bonfire Night – but more importantly I love getting my autumn clothes out of the cupboard because they’re so comfy and warm!

However, let’s face it, while we should be able to find beauty and joy in creation all year round, it can be harder to find it at this time of year, when nights are long, days are cold and dark, and the rain seems never ending.

Many of us may feel sadder, more stressed and more lethargic over the autumn and winter months, which could be down to Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). Up to 6% of UK adults experience SAD, sometimes known as ‘winter depression’. Symptoms can include persistent low mood, being less active than normal, feeling lethargic or sleepy during the day, sleeping longer or finding it hard to get up, lack of concentration and increased appetite. Combined with other factors like the pressures of the impending festive season, it’s easy to see how people can struggle immensely at this time of year.

The good news is there are ways to tackle these feelings and add a little cheer back into the colder seasons.

Here comes the sun

It might seem like a simple solution, but the human body needs sunlight. Vitamin D is essential to our wellbeing. This weekend, make the most of the little sunshine there is. If you can get out and about, go for a walk. If you’re indoors, open the curtains, tidy up and make your home bright and fresh. Just sitting by the window for half an hour could help restore some Vitamin D and lift your mood. You could also consider investing in a SAD lamp. For varying prices, these lamps simulate sunlight and can help improve mood. Find out more here.

Staying social

Socialising is good for us. That doesn’t necessarily mean going to a big party or being surrounded by lots of people – we’re all different and interact in varying ways, but the important thing is that we don’t cut ourselves off completely. This can be easy to do when the weather isn’t great and we’re already feeling low. So keep in touch! This may also open up opportunities to talk about how you’re feeling, which is another essential for our mental health and wellbeing.

Looking after yourself

Self care is always important, but even more so at this time of year. One of the symptoms of SAD is craving carbohydrates and overeating, which means it’s even easier than usual to comfort eat. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself now and again (you actually should), but a healthy, balanced diet is key to boosting our mood and energy levels. It’s also important to keep warm when the cold hits. There’s information on how to do this and where to get help with heating costs here.

No matter the weather or the time of year, if you’re struggling to the point that it’s affecting your day-to-day life, then speak to your GP. From me, I hope you find a little bit of happiness at this time of year. No matter what, I hope you know you are loved.

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