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‘The phone must have rung well over 200 times.’

calendar19 February 2018

Alex Aris's avatar Alex Aris

‘The phone must have rung well over 200 times.’

Apart from food and a roof over our heads, money is an important factor in everyday life. Sometimes we don't realise this, as it is programmed automatically within us through a process. At the end of each week or month from a paid job or benefits, we pay our way, as we eat, breath and sleep. It isn't until the movement of the financial pendulum, suddenly turning into a chaotic motion, that brings us to understand that there is a problem.

The glamour and enticement of obtaining credit through finance or retail outlets are all too easy and straightforward. Only the creditor can see the potential with ample amounts of an annual percentage rate, which can vary so much between banks and lenders. If we can't afford to pay off the full amount each month, we pay the minimum and get charged interest as a result. It's always been this way.

And through desperation, we turn to credit when everyday bills rise, when the rent or mortgage is due. Some say the saddest thing is when credit is used to buy food or a food bank is relied upon just to fill an empty stomach. We do what we need to do in order to simply survive.

And so, for me, I fell into secondary debt through a loan and credit cards. They had built up over many years. It bit me like a rabid dog or a frenzied shark swimming the perilous seas, as I drowned with no sign of surviving. But there is always hope - and it starts with asking for help from one of the many debt advice charities and organisations. I took my first brave step and contacted CAP in April 2017.

While I was in debt, creditors wrote letters and phoned pretty much constantly. The phone must have rung well over 200 times across several months, which seemed a real waste of energy and my circumstances hadn't changed at all. From day one, I suffered from crying, sleepless nights, stress, depression, lack of appetite and experienced scary types of anxiety attacks, which involved dizziness and vomiting. I felt so tired and exhausted. It really does hit you hard and to think there are people out there in the big wide world who commit suicide as a last resort because they can see no way out - it is so sad and frightening. It's very important to ask for help the moment things become difficult financially.

During my amazing debt support with CAP, I attended a CAP Money Course where I learned lots of new and useful ideas on how to budget and save. You then begin to realise that one of the bases of credit, in some ways, is to get what you want more quickly, rather than taking the more sensible route of saving and waiting. We tend to live in a utopian world of credit, which is sadly classed as the norm nowadays.

My end to debt has closed with going insolvent, after kind charities and donations known through CAP helped me to raise the fee. It now means that I have a fresh start and even though my credit score will be affected for six years, I will no longer have to carry the weight of financial pressure and can live a normal life again.

Alex went debt free in January 2018 after working through his debt with CAP. He lives and works in Oxford and says he has a passion for 'Lego, retro-themed gadgets and gizmos, computers and video game design'. He also enjoys classical and 1980s music, as well as sightseeing in the countryside. This blog was originally published on Alex's blog page and he has kindly given us permission to publish it here, in the hope that it will bring reassurance to anyone in a similar situation.

My life changing year as a Lead intern

calendar15 February 2018

Sarah Elson's avatar Sarah Elson

My life changing year as a Lead intern

It’s always been a lifelong aspiration of mine to work in the charity sector, to get up in the morning knowing what I’m about to do that day is going to make a difference to someone’s life.

After coming across CAP by accident (I saw a sticker on someone’s car and Googled what it was!) I visited the website and ordered a free copy of Nevertheless, CAP founder John Kirkby’s story of how it all started. I was totally blown away by what it meant to step out and trust God and knew that if I was going to start out in the charity sector anywhere, CAP had to be my first port of call! 

Last January I visited CAP HQ for the first time for my Lead interview. From the moment I walked through the door, I knew CAP was something I wholeheartedly wanted to be a part of. As you pass through the various departments, there is such a tangible sense of energy, passion and faith that is infectious. I drove home hoping and praying that this was going to be the next chapter of my life!

There is such a great family feel at CAP, which made it really easy to settle in when I first started in September of last year, despite being in a new job in a new city. The managers really care about you as a person, mentors help sharpen your focus and coaching is available if you want to tackle a specific area of development.

A place of opportunity

If you’re driven and tenacious, there are so many opportunities for the taking, ranging from leading sessions for your fellow interns, volunteering at events like Big Church Day Out and New Wine, promoting CAP in the community through being part of the Speaker team and many more!

So many opportunities: Volunteering at the Bradford Light Church CAP Job Club

A place to be challenged

As part of Lead you get to become a valued member of a department within the charity. It’s fantastic getting to specialise in one area and there really are opportunities to learn something new every day. We have Lead sessions every Wednesday afternoon, where the interns spend time exploring a spiritual development topic. After this we receive professional development training, covering aspects of leadership such as project management, emotional intelligence and communication skills.

We also have a fundraising target to hit by the end of our Lead year. We receive lots of input and encouragement on this during our Lead sessions; a personal favourite of mine was taking part in an idea-generating session and then presenting a pitch to a panel of judges, Dragon’s Den style!

A place to grow

CAP is a great place to grow professionally and spiritually. In addition to learning your role and the training you get on Lead sessions, there are so many other opportunities to develop, ranging from lunchtime seminars, a well-stocked learning and development library and special events with external speakers. Whatever you go on to do after your Lead year, you’ll be well equipped and full of fantastic experiences that are guaranteed to take you far.

A place of fun

Not many workplaces value fun as highly as CAP. We get to work hard and play hard! So far this year I’ve taken part in Nerf wars, lots of serious table tennis, an indoor sports day, Mexican meals (and piñatas), walks in the Yorkshire Dales and absolute Christmas fever! Sunday evening blues aren’t a thing when you work for CAP – we start the week with worship on a Monday morning, which is so energising and a great reminder of the heart behind what we do.

Christmas fever: Building hampers for clients in need at Christmas

The Lead programme is about investing in you, getting to know what really makes you tick and where you want to go. Whether you’re looking for your first career step, a new challenge, or you just want to try something new, Lead provides a great platform to experience an award-winning charity that’s working alongside the Church to change thousands upon thousands of lives. Could it change yours too?

Fancy joining us for a new adventure in September? Click here to find out more about Lead and come along to one of our assessment days.

40 ways to pay it forward this Lent

calendar13 February 2018

Maisie Pollard's avatar Maisie Pollard

40 ways to pay it forward this Lent

This year, Lent begins on 14 February and lasts until 29 March and, as ever, people everywhere will view this as a time to give something up. It’s great, of course, to stretch yourself to go without a luxury for 40 days – chocolate, unhealthy snacks or alcohol for example – but has the season become too much about this and less about its Christian roots? This Lent, let’s give ourselves a different kind of challenge: to give back. By paying it forward to the community and people around us rather than focusing inwardly, Lent has the power to make a huge difference. We’ve compiled 40 ways to do just that – one for each day.

  1. Start by reading an extract from the Bible daily to help focus your mind on others. 'Love your neighbour as yourself', says Mark 12:31. Christian Aid offers free daily Bible readings online.
  2. Sacrifice some time out of your day to call someone who you know you should talk to more often, ask how they are and offer a listening ear.
  3. Make a pledge to help the homeless. If you see someone sleeping rough, you could offer to buy them their lunch. Just giving them the time of day can be so valuable.
  4. Make the choice to pray for someone. You don’t necessarily have to pray for them in person or over the phone, you could just take five minutes to pray for them while you’re on your own or even on the go!
  5. Write to someone to say why you appreciate him or her and what you find great about them too. You could even include a Bible quote to give them encouragement and set them up for their day. This is a really simple act of kindness that could make a whole lot of difference!
  6. Contribute to charity. You could give financially through monthly donations or give a one-off donation if you’d prefer. Or why not go all out and start planning a sponsored event in aid of your favourite charity?
  7. Apply to volunteer within a charity shop or, if this isn’t feasible, gather some unused clothes and items and take them down to your local charity shop. They always need new stock and it’s a simple way to help out and get rid of some clutter too.
  8. Additionally, clothes banks and homeless shelters always need donations. Find out what’s in your area and donate any clothes you no longer need – warm items like coats, gloves and scarves are especially useful.
  9. Help to clean the community. If there are no local litter clean-ups in your area, you could offer a helping hand to someone in need with their cleaning. This might be an elderly relative or a friend who’s rushed off their feet.
  10. Give compliments! Make a conscious effort to say something nice to someone (or multiple people) throughout your day. This doesn’t cost you a penny and can make a difference to their mood and yours.
  11. Offer to help out in your local church. You could offer to join the welcome or worship team or to make tea and coffee after church services.
  12. Make a stranger’s day. Ask that cashier who always serves you in the supermarket how their day is going. Thank them and show them they’re valued. They might not hear it very often. When you receive good customer service, make sure you let the employee’s manager know so that their hard work is recognised.
  13. Give an anonymous donation to someone’s JustGiving sponsorship page. Support a good cause, help out a friend, and do it selflessly.
  14. Alternatively, set up your own fundraising page for that sponsored event you started planning. Share it on social media and drum up support.
  15. Talk to someone you haven’t heard from in a while. Ask how they are and what they’ve been doing since you last spoke with them. You could make a commitment to yourself to take more time to check in with them from now on.
  16. Ask to join your church’s prayer chain to ensure that those in need in your community get the support they need. If your church doesn’t have one, why not speak to the leader about setting one up?
  17. A creative idea is to put together a care hamper for someone in need or in hospital. It could be for someone you know or even for a stranger. You could include things like candles, magazines or toys. Why not pop in a ‘thinking of you’ card containing your favourite Bible quote to help lift up someone during a difficult time? Then you just need to drop by the hospital and speak to someone on reception about dropping off your gift.
  18. If you see that there is a particular need in your local community, write to your local MP and pray that the issue will be resolved.
  19. Calling all animal lovers! Take time out of your day to donate pet food or bedding to your local animal shelter or rescue. Generosity isn’t just exclusive for humans!
  20. Plan to cut down on your waste to help the environment. Get savvy on recycling by checking you local council’s webpage to see what can and can’t be recycled in your area. Be conscious of the waste you’re producing and start making some simple swaps. You’ll be contributing to preserving the planet one small step at a time.
  21. If you go to the supermarket and get a BOGOF deal, give away the free one! This is a simple but generous act of kindness. Find your local food bank and donate it there.
  22. Offer to take someone who lives alone for a coffee or for lunch. For a cheaper option, get the kettle on and invite them to your house instead.
  23. When you go out for a meal, leave a tip if you wouldn’t normally. It doesn’t have to be big, but it’s an easy way to say thank you when you receive great service.
  24. Another food-related act of generosity is to cook a meal for some friends or loved ones. This is a simple idea but a great act of giving (and gives you an excuse to eat your favourite foods!)
  25. Communication is key! Try something new and learn a few phrases in sign language or another language to reach people who you wouldn’t usually be able to fully communicate with. It’s a valuable skill and even learning simple phrases like ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’ can make people in your community feel included.
  26. Take ten minutes out of your day to pray for issues that may not be as close to home – current issues like migration, climate change and endangered animals all need the power of prayer.
  27. Offer to pray for someone one on one. Ask them if they feel comfortable to share what’s going on in their life, and give it all to God.
  28. Offer to wash something for a family member. Whether it’s the laundry or the car, it’s an act of service that won’t go unnoticed.
  29. Leave an anonymous note or gift for someone to show how much they are appreciated.
  30. If you go to a coffee shop or takeaway, you could leave money behind the till and pay for the next person’s order.
  31. Share your favourite Bible quote with your friends. Be courageous and post it on social media, explaining why it has an impact on you. You never know, it just might impact upon someone else too!
  32. Get some sticky notes, write messages of truth or Bible quotes on them, and stick them where someone will see them. It could be around the house or on a colleague’s desk. This will remind them how much they mean to not only you, but to God as well.
  33. One very simple task – smile! Smile as much as you can. It releases endorphins in your brain and will improve your day and the day of those around you.
  34. Get a trolley from a supermarket and, once you put it back, leave the pound in it. This is such a simple way to give a small act of kindness.
  35. Make something that you could share with your friends – baking a cake to take into work is a way to show you care that few people are likely to not enjoy.
  36. Invest in Fairtrade products during your weekly shop.
  37. Support smaller, local shops rather than bigger supermarkets.
  38. Make a list of people and situations that need prayer and make sure you pray for them!
  39. Buy a copy of the Bible and give it to somebody you know or leave it for a stranger to find (pray that God puts it in the hands of someone who really needs it).
  40. Reflect on all the amazing, selfless things you’ve done over the last few weeks. Choose a few that made a real difference or that you particularly enjoyed, then resolve to continue doing them into the future.

Love languages: find your perfect gift on a budget

calendar08 February 2018

Maisie Pollard's avatar Maisie Pollard

Love languages: find your perfect gift on a budget

When money’s tight, commercial holidays like Valentine’s Day can leave you feeling unnecessarily under pressure. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t get to celebrate though and there are plenty of ways to express your love to your partner without spending more than you can afford. It all starts with the love languages – by getting in touch with your partner’s, you can identify which gift idea suits you both best.

According to Dr. Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages, there are five different ways to communicate with your partner to show love. These are:

Quality time

For some people, spending quality time with their family and friends can be the biggest factor to a successful relationship. And spending time doesn’t necessarily mean spending money.

Instead of breaking the bank for a meal in an expensive restaurant, how about a romantic dinner for you and your partner at home? If you don’t want to prepare or cook a meal yourself, you could order food in from your partner’s favourite takeaway or head to the supermarket – for example, M&S is offering a Valentine’s Day dinner for two including a starter, main, side dish, dessert, chocolates and a bottle of wine for £20. This can be a cheaper substitute to a restaurant while still showing that you care and want to be in each other’s company. Get the kids to go to sleep first and it’ll be even better!

If it's a friend or family member you want to treat, simply make time for them in your schedule. If their love language is quality time, they'll value that so much more than anything you could buy.

Words of affirmation

For those whose love language is words of affirmation, a kind, encouraging comment means more than anything else. If this is the case for your partner, you don’t need to spend much at all to tell them how much care. Grab a card and list the reasons why you love them and what makes them special. It’s an inexpensive idea, but will make them feel really appreciated. If you’ve got kids, get them to write in it too, showing your partner how much you all value them. This could work just as well for a friend or family member too.

Receiving gifts

You might find that receiving gifts is your partner’s love language. Don’t panic – that doesn’t mean you need to go splashing the cash, nor does it mean that your partner is materialistic. Usually it’s more about the act than the gift itself; the fact that you’ve taken the time to consider a gift they’ll really appreciate.

An idea for a film enthusiast is to grab a box or basket, fill it with your partner’s favourite snacks and a couple of DVDs and there you have it: a movie night for two! You could even involve the kids by getting them to make some personalised movie tickets.

Alternatively, head to the charity shops and see what you can dig out. From clothes and jewellery to games and houseware, you might be surprised at the stuff you can find in pretty good nick. It’ll cost you a fraction of the price of something new and, hey, nobody needs to know a thing…

Acts of service

For those who favour acts of service, actions speak louder than words. If that sounds like your partner, it’s all about rolling up your sleeves and lending a hand! You could help around the house with cooking, cleaning or washing, take the kids out to give your partner a rest, make a start on that job you've been putting off, or make lunch for them to take to work.

Maybe it's a friend who needs some love this week. Why not offer to give them a lift somewhere to give them a rest from driving or offer to babysit one evening? Maybe it's a busy colleague. If their love language is acts of service, a cuppa will go a long way.

Physical touch

For some people, it’s physical touch that has them feeling the love. Now, this doesn’t have to be intimate - something as simple as going for a walk and holding hands or snuggling on the sofa could be enough to show your affection. Often it’s the smallest things that can be most valuable and thoughtful, and even better, it doesn’t cost you a penny!

To discover your love language, take the free online test here. And whether you decide to celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, we hope you feel as valued and loved as you truly are.

Less plastic, more joy

calendar01 February 2018

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Less plastic, more joy

If you watched the fabulous Blue Planet last year, you'll have been left in no doubt that plastic is a huge problem for our planet. It’s not just the ocean that’s affected; every piece of plastic waste has to be disposed of somehow, so if recycling isn’t an option, it’s landfill or being dumped in the sea.

Supermarkets are not the only culprit, but they do offer many examples of the unnecessary use of plastics. Packaging items that come with a natural, God-given covering highlights an over-reliance on plastic – bananas, avocados, oranges, even coconuts can all come wrapped in layers of film. With at least one major supermarket aiming to go plastic free, there are obviously alternatives available.

If you love to recycle or just want to cut down on your plastic footprint, there are ways you can save the planet that don’t cost the earth:

  • Rather than using individually wrapped washing machine tablets, go for a big cardboard box of laundry powder. The cardboard is easy to recycle and buying in bulk will save you money.
  • When you think that bottle in the shower is empty, it’s not, there are still a few washes left inside. Just cut off the top with sharp scissors and make sure not a drop goes to waste. Even better, try a shampoo bar, available with minimal packaging and just as effective.
  • Buying in bulk can be a big cost up front before you get the longer term savings. If you have like-minded friends or family, you could club money together, bulk buy, then share out the purchase – this gets round the problem of storing bulk buys too.
  • Paying 5p for plastic shopping bags has become a part of everyone’s life by now but what about when you leave your ‘bags for life’ at home? All it takes is a bit of organisation – leave one in the car, get one that folds up to keep in your coat pocket or handbag, then you’ll never be caught short again. 
  • We have an over-reliance on disposable, one-use products. If we go back just a few years, products that fulfilled the same function but can be washed and reused are still available. This covers, nappies, face wipes, razors and sanitary products.
  • Think about all the straws and plastic cups you’ve used since you were a kid. Maybe it’s progressed into disposable coffee cups with a plastic lid. There’s a quick fix for this: use a water bottle from home, a hot cup or a thermos flask. Increasingly, outlets will provide your drink of choice in your own cup or you can be really thifty and make your drink-to-go at home before you leave.
  • While we're thinking about food-to-go, how about reusable sandwich bags? Instead of clingfilm or a fresh plastic bag everyday get a cute cotton bag with a wipe clean liner.

It may be because you love creation; it may be because you hate waste. There are many ways that your small changes can make a big difference and help protect our environment for the years to come.

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