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Catching a glimpse of the frontlines: Engage 2016

calendar25 July 2016

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Catching a glimpse of the frontlines: Engage 2016

Written by Sarah Haywood

I am over halfway through my Engage internship with Christians Against Poverty (CAP UK) at the moment. I have so far had two packed weeks in their head office in Bradford, witnessing first hand the business excellence and genuine compassion of the amazing people behind this charity. I have heard testimonies that have moved me to tears; I have been inspired in training as to how companies, charities and leaders can embrace values of rigorous humility to make an exponential impact on the world around them; and I have witnessed the frontlines of a charity tackling some of the most prevalent issues facing the vulnerable, poor and lonely in society.

Like many I know, I have a heart for social justice. A heart for a world where parents, money or circumstance can’t put you in a position of exploitation, desperation or isolation. CAP appears to have this heart too. Through a growing network of local churches, CAP runs courses on managing finances, getting out of debt, overcoming addictions, finding employment and skills, and learning life lessons and decision making skills many of us take for granted. Basically, they see the struggles of the vulnerable and do something about it (within their capacity and expertise). They create genuine community, at a local level, on a nationwide scale. They enable those with a passion, with the resources and training to impact their local communities. This is not a short-term 'let’s sort you out and send you on your way', but a 'let’s befriend you, help you, serve you and continue with you on your journey'. They offer the very best to those with the very least, and it stirs my heart to see their conviction behind the cause.

I was told upon starting my internship that the experience of the CAP head office would ruin me for all other workplaces – I was willing to be ruined! A space in which the CEO gives hugs to a team who have just achieved a deal with some creditors which will bless the charity; an office where the founder walks by and passionately praises a team for all the work they’ve done this year so far, and how many people they have helped find employment; an office where the entire staff body meets three times a week to either worship together, pray for those volunteers and staff in local churches or pray for their department’s work. What I have experienced in just two weeks will not leave my memory anytime soon. This is a cause and a people I am committed to continue supporting for a very long time.

What strikes me most perhaps though is not their incredible work with local churches but their reputation and relationship with some of the most notoriously ruthless industries (such as creditors, banks and energy companies). To gain respect from these because of their integrity and quality of service, to treat these industries not as enemies but as allies, and to deliver greater resources and support than any other face-to-face debt advice services in the country. This level of excellence surpasses professionalism, but is instead unashamed compassion and commitment to a cause that the world needs to wake up and do something about those who 'slip through the net' or are 'disadvantaged from birth' or are 'beyond hope'.

Nothing can stop those who selflessly seek to use what they have to help those who don’t have, when they humbly and rigorously pursue superbness in whatever they are able to offer and enable others around them to do the same.

There's more from Sarah via her blog, To find out more about the Engage internship programme, head to

Partnering with CAP: Richard Cooke

calendar18 July 2016

Richard Cooke's avatar Richard Cooke

Partnering with CAP: Richard Cooke

We were running a Foodbank and through that we saw a great need for debt help in our community, so we came up to Jubilee Mill to see what CAP was about.

The quality of the service and the infrastructure really stood out to us. I loved the passion and the ethos too. My passion is all about people and CAP shares that passion: that people matter. Jesus looked at the crowd and had compassion on them. CAP helps us to show that compassion by keeping it real and relevant.

We are adopting people from our CAP services into church. We’re now having to put on two services for the 600-700 people who come on a Sunday. And we are pastorally supporting well over 1,000 people, whether they come to church on a Sunday or not. That’s been a natural growth for us, and our biggest shift in evangelism. We just incorporate the wider family into people’s lives. The other day, I heard a bank manager from our church doing mock interviews for our job club members. The demographics of our church has changed, so that we really reflect the community we’re in.

To other church leaders considering running a CAP service I would say: is there something deep within you that wants to help these beautiful people? Because if so, then I can wholeheartedly 100% say go for it! You’ve got to live it and embody it, so be prepared to get involved.

CAP gives us a daily tangible inspiration as to why we do church. We have so many amazing stories. CAP interrupts our days to prompt us to go and help people, and that’s exactly what we need.

Richard Cooke is Senior Leader at The Bridge Church in Bolton. He is married to Anna and they have four children. As a church, they partner with CAP to run a debt centre and job club.

For more information on how your church can partner with us:

What’s so smart about smart meters?

calendar15 July 2016

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Written by Sarah Haywood

Anything that can make the complicated things in life a little simpler to understand should surely be a good thing, right? The welcoming of smart meters across the UK by 2020 is set to bring clarity to the complicated world of energy bills and usage to 26 million British homes.

This nationwide initiative is set to replace traditional meters including prepay key meters in what has been called ‘the biggest improvement to our energy system in decades’, catapulting our energy network into the 21st century. The move will adapt our current system to be able to cope with the rise in more complex energy usage or generation, such as electric cars and solar panels and help the national grid more accurately plan for the future.

What’s more, your energy provider fits the device. For those with more than one energy provider, the company that will fit this new meter is whichever provider gets in contact with you first, and any other providers you use will have to channel their information through whichever meter you have fitted.

The new digital meter for gas and electricity sends automatic, accurate readings to your energy companies and also provides you with a simple monitor display, which could help you better understand and manage your energy usage. The portable tablet-like monitor is said to be simple to use and displays ‘near real time’ usage information.

The running of these shouldn’t make much impact on your energy usage, costing less than £1 to run over the course of one year. Additionally, it has been suggested that giving us a heightened awareness of our usage levels will help us realise when we use energy most and where we can effectively reduce our usage and save some money!

Ellie recently had a smart meter installed and said, ‘I know how much a cup of tea costs and see the usage go up when the washing machine or dishwasher are on. It tells you your predicted bill for the month and shows you all sorts of stats across the months you’ve had it. I think it’s brilliant!’

Now this all sounds well and good, but it’s certainly facing some obstacles as it begins to roll out across the UK. Some have reported that certain areas lack the right network coverage. In addition, due to the expanse of the roll out, customers who have installation issues can find themselves waiting a long while before technicians are able to come to their assistance.

Whilst any large initiative is sure to face growing pains, the motive at the heart of this development seems to be admirable: helping us, as a nation, better protect and manage our energy generation and enabling customers to understand and monitor their usage more accurately.

(Here's an example of a smart meter in action!)

Partnering with CAP: Peter Lewis

calendar14 July 2016

Peter Lewis's avatar Peter Lewis

Partnering with CAP: Peter Lewis

When I heard about CAP at a conference, what struck me was that this would suit the area where we are. We’re in a deprived area and we were dealing with people for whom debt was a big issue. I liked that CAP was not just about sorting their finances, but about looking for God to sort out their whole life. I wanted to offer what CAP was providing in our town, because there was a gap in what the churches were doing there.

Our first ever client and her husband became Christians; they also became debt free and they got married in the church on Valentine’s day. There are many stories like this, and we would never have connected with these people if we hadn’t started up a debt centre.

It’s helped us as a church to focus outward into community, not inwards to what the church is doing. If you chat to people on a Sunday morning, they are keen to identify this as a core part of what our church is about. We’re connecting to people outside the church, being politically active and involved in current issues. I believe churches need to be rooted into the issues of their local community. CAP has helped us to be relevant and effective.

Revd. Peter Lewis is vicar at St Catherine’s Church in Pontypridd, South Wales. His church partners with CAP to run a debt centre, job club, release group, life skills and the CAP Money Course!

For more information on how your church can partner with us:

Budget recipe binder: Pasta carbonara

calendar08 July 2016

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Budget recipe binder: Pasta carbonara

A classic dish, this is my go-to recipe when I want something quick and tasty for tea. Ready-made carbonara sauces are often full of saturated fat and salt, so it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to make your own. Plus, you can add or omit any ingredients you fancy – swap the spinach for sweetcorn, the pancetta for chicken pieces, or go all out and throw in the lot! Just remember to keep the heat low when you’re cooking the sauce or you’ll end up with something resembling scrambled eggs…

Preparation time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins
Serves: 4
Total cost: £3.36*

300g pasta (uncooked weight)
Vegetable oil
One large onion
130g bacon, chopped into small pieces
285g tinned mushrooms (drained)
380g tinned spinach (drained)
Two large eggs
300ml half fat crème fraîche
Salt and pepper
Sprinkle of dried tarragon

1. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the pasta.
2. Finely slice the onion, then chop the mushrooms and spinach (if not ready done).
3. Crack the eggs into a jug or bowl, add the crème fraîche, salt, pepper and tarragon, and whisk until smoothly combined.
4. Fry the onions in the oil until soft.
5. Add the pancetta and continue to fry for a few minutes.
6. Add the mushrooms and spinach and fry for about five minutes.
7. Reduce the heat. Pour in the egg mixture and stir continuously for five to ten minutes. If it starts to resemble scrambled eggs, turn down the heat, pronto!
8. Combine the pasta with the sauce and serve with a sprinkle of grated cheese on top if you fancy.

Buy your pasta in bulk, it’s cheaper.
Tinned veg is a winner – it costs less than fresh and you can keep it in the cupboard until you’re ready to make your carbonara. Remember, if there is some left over once you’ve opened the tin, transfer it to a plastic container, keep it in the fridge and eat it within two days.

*Prices from Tesco, correct at time of publishing

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