Every year people in Sheffield raise £65,000 for Christian Aid Week to help some of the poorest people in the world. Ben Spencer spoke to volunteers - and travelled to Bangladesh to see how the funds are spent.
MARJORY Draper started collecting money for Christian Aid in Sheffield more than 60 years ago.
“I was 23 or 24 when I started,” said the 85-year-old from South View Road, Sharrow.
She is among 1,500 volunteers who will take to the streets of Sheffield over the next few days to raise money for Christian Aid Week.
Between them, they will deliver 60,000 donation envelopes and hope to collect more than £65,000 for the charity.
“When I first started doing this, St John’s Methodist Church in Sharrow organised the collection, and we covered every street in the area,” Marjory said.
“Of course, St John’s is not there any more - it’s a ruin.”
Marjory, who worked as cashier for an insurance company before she retired, said: “I think this is very important - one of the most important parts of church work.
“Helping people in the poorest parts of the work is very important. It’s something I feel very positive about.”
Christian Aid Week, which this year runs between May 13 and 19, is the longest-running fundraising week in the UK.
Around the country more than 150,000 people will get out and deliver their trademark red envelopes.
All the money raised goes towards partner organisations working on the ground in 47 of the poorest countries in the world.
In Sheffield, as well as the massive door-to-door collections, a series of fundraising events have been organised. On Saturday, musicians will gather in Barker’s Pool between 10.30am and 3.30pm for their popular annual Busk Aid event.
And on Sunday, St Mary’s Church on Bramall Lane is holding a ‘Lazy Sunday’ from 9.30am to 4.30pm, in which people can get their breakfast, lunch and tea in return for a donation.
There will also be lunches, raffles, supermarket collections and coffee mornings across the city.
Keen runner Jonathan Trezise, 51, from Millhouses, is busy training for the Sheffield Half Marathon to raise funds.
The civil engineer said: “I’ve supported Christian Aid for years and years.
“I think the perceived problems we have in this country are insignificant compared to what some people in the developing world are having to deal with every day.
“I think it’s important not to lose sight of that.
Along with delivering envelopes and collecting money, Jonathan hopes to raise around £200 to £300 by running the Sheffield Half Marathon on May 27.
He added: “Training is going well - I’m hoping to get round in under an hour and a half.”
Long road leads to slow progress
SELINA Begum’s eyes flash as she makes her point, striking the beaten mud floor with her palm.
The group of men and women are sitting cross-legged in the dark hut, discussing what action to take if another cyclone hits their village of Jodindra Nagar in rural south-west Bangladesh.
The village committee was set up after Cyclone Aila struck the Satkhira district in 2009, flooding the land and forcing thousands of people out of their homes.
The group has decided to set up a new disasters group, to be in charge of distributing information and resources if there is another fierce storm.
But Selina, aged 29, the village committee’s president and a mother of two, is not happy.
The committee has decided the five-member disaster group is to be convened and co-convened by men and Selina disagrees.
Speaking loudly, shifting her shawl back from her eyes, Selina demands the convener be a woman.
The committee swiftly discusses her point and votes to accept her suggestion – a woman will lead the disaster group. Just a few years ago Selina’s suggestion would have been unheard of.
But Selina, a jolly, boisterous woman with a spring in her step and laughter in her voice, has changed everything in Jodindra Nagar.
“In Bangladesh, traditionally it is presumed wives will stay in the home to cook and serve the husband,” she said, speaking after the meeting.
“When I started going out of the house my husband used to beat me.”
Selina married Abu Said, 13 years her senior, when she was just 12.
Marrying so young is illegal in Bangladesh but remains widespread.
Selina’s life changed when she joined the village savings committee.
The group, set up by local charity Shushilan - which is funded by international organisation Christian Aid - provided training in human rights, gender equality, leadership and more practical skills such as vegetable gardening and basic veterinary practice.
But while Selina was learning valuable skills, word spread around the village that she was disobeying her husband and leaving the house.
“Neighbours used to say to my husband, ‘you must control your wife’,” she said.
“It was seen as shameful.”
Selina and her husband were struggling with money, so the young mum rented out a piece of land she had inherited from her father.
“This was an inheritance,” she said. “So I decided to lease it out. But when my husband found out he started beating me.”
Quietly crying, she said: “I was holding my three-day-old son in my arms as he beat me.”
Attitudes in the village changed when Cyclone Aila struck in May 2009.
Doctors could not reach the isolated area, so Selina, using her veterinary training and saline solution provided by Shushilan, worked to treat the wounded people in her village.
“I pushed 47 saline drips into people’s arms,” she said. “There were no doctors to do it.”
Three years later, Selina no longer faces restrictions from her husband, has been voted president of the village committee and is earning a good wage as a vet, treating cows and goats in the surrounding area.
And she has persuaded other women to join her.
Twelve of the 20-strong village committee are women and Selina’s neighbours no longer berate her husband.
Selina and her husband, now aged 42, are happily married, and her son Selim Reza, 15, and daughter Sumi, 11 are thriving.
“We are financially solvent and my neighbours have stopped saying bad things about me,” she said.
“Shushilan have made a new person out of me.
“My husband resisted it but I knew I was right. He is a good man but he was influenced by my neighbours.”
Selina has now gone back to school, to take up where she left when she married at the age of 12, and is intending to stand for the next local elections.
Similar changes are taking place across Bangladesh.
The country’s government is taking action to empower women - more girls are going to school, more women are in work, and political bodies need to have a quota of women in positions of power.
Things are slowly changing, transforming long-held views.
* Donate this Christian Aid Week (May 13-19) online at www.caweek.org
The first £5 million donated to Christian Aid Week will be matched by the Government pound for pound, so we can help more people in poor communities around the world work their way out of poverty.