The churches in Chepstow work really closely with each other to deliver a variety of projects to the town. These are done as ‘Churches Together’ which does what it says on the tin! People from different local churches volunteering together for a common local cause. These projects serve sectors of our community that sometimes have little or no connection to any church. Food bank, Street Pastors, Besom and Christians Against Poverty (CAP) all have a local presence in Chepstow and it’s great to mix with members of other churches as we meet and get to know some of the lovely people who access the services on offer…
Every 20 minutes and 15 seconds, a property is repossessed. Today, there are people in our community whose lives are being devastated as a result of debt. They may be struggling to feed their families, and feel suicidal, depressed and alone. CAP believes that nobody should be held hostage by debt, breaking families apart and stealing hope for the future. CAP volunteers are passionate about releasing people from a life sentence of debt, poverty and their causes.
“Our local CAP centre provides free debt advice to anyone in the Chepstow & District area postcodes of NP15, NP16 and NP26. The advice covers setting up a payment plan for clients and insolvency help should this be necessary. This service is free of charge, has 20 years experience behind it and always has a solution. No matter what has caused debt, it is crippling and very difficult to get out of without help. It is an absolute joy to transform lives from despair back to hope with a debt free future.” (Isobel, CAP Volunteer)
Like towns and cities up and down the country, Chepstow attracts many people to its pubs and clubs on Saturday nights. Street Pastors are trained volunteers who patrol the town centre between the hours of 10pm and 3am to engage with people on the street, listening, caring, offering practical help when needed and posing for the occasional selfie. They give out flip flops to girls who are struggling to walk in high heels, water to those who are dehydrated and liaise with the emergency services should this be needed. Each Street Pastor project is set up under the guidance of the Ascension Trust and run by a local coordinator with support from local churches, the police and community groups.
“Don’t believe the image of the docu-soaps that show only darkness and violence in our town centres. There are some freaky moments, but the majority of time is fun and we meet some truly great people. After a few drinks and in a relaxed atmosphere it’s amazing how many will share really deeply and very quickly about some of the stuff that is going in their lives. I am constantly amazed that people confide in us - strangers whom they don’t know - because we’re simply there and willing to spend the time and show them they matter – because they do, that Jesus loves them – because he does, and give them a lolly – because who doesn’t love a drumstick?” (Jenni, Street Pastor volunteer)
Thirteen million people live below the poverty line in the UK. If benefits are delayed or an unexpected bill arrives, individuals and families can end up going hungry. This is where Food bank comes in. Administrated by the Trussell Trust, these centres are part of a network of 400 places around the UK that provide a 3 days’ worth of emergency food and support to people experiencing financial crisis. The contents of each food parcel comes from local donations from individuals, churches and supermarkets. In 2015/16, Foodbank gave 1,109,309 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis.
“Working for the foodbank allows you to be a practical demonstration of God’s love to each person who walks through the doors. We want every client we see to know their situation isn’t hopeless and we aim to bring them dignity as we give out food. Whether you volunteer once a week or once a month, each day is different. Each team is like a family; we laugh together, cry together and pray together, you get so much out of volunteering and helping to improve the lives of those in our community.” (Sarah, Foodbank volunteer)
Besom is a bridge between those who want to give and those in need in our community. It serves those who want to give and aims to facilitate their giving effectively. The coordinator works with a team of volunteers connect with those in need through professionals such as Healthvisitors, Social Workers and charities. The Besom logo is a broom to sweep away suffering, and every service is provided without charge. Prayer is central to the project and members meet every week to pray for Besom and for our local community and welcome anyone who would like to join in. Examples of the Besom project playing out are sourcing furniture, painting & decorating, garden clearances and home removals to name just a few.
We pray for a matching of givers with recipients – so feel free to offer skills and time as an individual, and we’ll see what happens! The experience of Besoms across the country is that there is often a perfect match between the gifts that are given with the recipient’s need. The Besom is run by givers who have other occupations, so we have no official office hours, but we aim to respond to messages within a week. If you feel you would like to get involved or would benefit from our help, we would love to hear from you.