Friday 5 October 2018 was a red-letter day in the history of Christians Against Poverty. It was the day the one-hour documentary called The Debt Saviours was broadcast on BBC2.
An enthusiastic publicity push surrounded the programme, hundreds of congregations had held a day of prayer and hundreds of thousands settled down to see what the film maker had made of us.
Now a year on, what has been the long term effect of the programme?
Foodbank volunteer Christine Lim said the programme literally changed her life. 'I was really moved after watching The Debt Saviours and, the following Sunday, I started up a conversation with several members of my Ulverston Parish Church family around whether they felt there was a heart for opening up a local debt centre.
Their response was, if I was prepared to champion the project, then they would support me, so we set about raising the funds to make it happen.
I'm so grateful to my Church family and my new CAP family for all their prayers and support during this time which has helped me to stay optimistic and focused and, God willing, our new debt centre will finally open for business at the beginning of October.'
Debt Centre Manager Gaz Thompson, whose story was featured considerably in the programme, said the experience has been very useful. 'It’s amazing that people are still recognising me from it when I’m out and about, both at work and conferences. It’s opened a lot of doors for me both personally, within my roles at church and in the city. A lot of the referral agencies and groups I work with had really positive things to say and I think that it really showed how CAP can be trusted. It also put people at ease about the way we pray for our clients.
It’s only a year but I feel like I have grown a lot since the documentary. I’m now married with a baby on the way and that makes me very happy.'
CAP's Founder, John Kirkby, said it had been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, both being filmed and seeing the final edit. 'Even a year on, everywhere I go, people of faith and those without faith tell me how they watched it and felt the sincerity of our heart to help those in need.
The scale of the response left us all a bit overwhelmed but I am pleased we took the risk and we’ve seen God’s constant hand on the project.'
It’s true to say that the programme and widespread publicity did mean CAP was better known than ever before – more people called in for help but also more people wanted to play a part and tens of thousands of pounds were raised.
At CAP we’ve heard many accounts of people who felt the programme really spoke to them to get help.
Client S from Exeter said she was just home from hospital, where she had been treated for a failed suicide attempt. She said, 'I’d never heard of CAP before. It’s quite funny – when I got home, I turned the telly on. There was a programme on TV about CAP. I thought that was really strange! That’s when I thought I would make that first phone call and get in touch to see if CAP could help.' S is now debt free, she’s on a course which is helping her deal with past issues and is working through the twelve steps of an AA course alongside Fresh Start, a course run by CAP-trained people at her local church where she has been welcomed into the community.
She told us, 'This huge black cloud has lifted. I’m hopeful not just for today but for the future.'