Christians Against Poverty: Chorley's good Samaritans helping lift locals out of poverty
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) was founded by John Kirkby in 1996. Having previously worked in finance, John wanted to use his expertise to help the poor, and so decided to work with those crippled by debt, parents who couldn't feed their children, and families facing eviction.
CAP has since grown into a national charity, negotiating with creditors, helping set up budgeting systems, and offering a lifeline to those in need. Each new branch is partnered to a local church and headed by a debt counsellor, with the Chorley branch - operating out of St. Laurence's Church - starting operations last August.
"I have a passion for working with and helping people," says Chorley-born Debt Centre Manager Sue Boult. "CAP is open to everybody, regardless of faith, and the idea is that, as we're working with people to bring them out of poverty, we bring God's word to them as well, which allows me to not only do the practical work to help people but also bring faith into it as well.
"Clients get practical and emotional support: we support them, pray with them, and introduce them to God in a non-pressurised way," adds Sue, 51. "We work with homeless families, families facing eviction, families coping with job losses, people who can't afford to put meals on tables. When you do something to help those people, there's an immense sense of pride.
"We do it because we love people, so the outcomes are reward themselves."
Beyond helping people after the event, CAP has also expanded its services to tackle the causes of debt and poverty, helping with employment through CAP Job Clubs, helping people control dependencies through Fresh Start, equipping clients with the skills to live well on low incomes through CAP Life Skills, and offering financial guidance through the CAP Money Course.
"As a Christian, it's not always easy to express your faith to people in day-to-day situations, so - through CAP - we can be dynamic in helping people and explain how we've been called to serve," says James Laidler, who works on the CAP Money Course. "It's a great outlet but if - at the end of the day - people don't want to hear about our faith, then we'll still help them.
"There's a satisfaction in doing what we're called to do," adds James, 66, from Aylesbury. "If we can help bring people out of dark situations and lift that anxiety, then that improves their lives."
Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, the Chorley branch has received initial funding to cover their first three years and has already been making waves, having trained 12 people to be Befrienders for isolated locals during the pandemic, eight of whom are in touch with people in need. They have also received an anonymous £4,000 donation to supplement their work.
"I've always wanted to get involved in something like this so, when the chance came up to become a Befriender, it felt right because I'm retired and I've got time to give back," says Val Abrams, 67. "CAP gives us an opportunity to help people and embody the parable of the good Samaritan.
"I look after a lady who has quite complex needs and, while it's quite difficult given we can meet up or go out for a coffee, it's all about phone contact," she adds. "Being able to get one-on-one will make a big difference, but being there to listen over the phone is invaluable."
The pandemic has naturally affected the charity's work, with Sue confirming that they had experienced an increase in referrals due to the impact of Covid. "People's circumstances have changed but we don't cast judgement," she says. "Anyone can be affected."
The situation has enabled CAP to get more hands-on, however.
"We've helped food banks, provided food parcels, collected donations, and - with other churches - created a good coverage of essential services for those in-need in Chorley," James says. "It's given us the chance to be more part of the community."
To access CAP's debt help in Chorley, please ring freephone number 0800 328 0006. Sue can be contacted personally on 07745 334 027.