Sunday 11th February 2018, being the second Sunday in February, was Mission Sunday at Blaby Congregational Church.
As in previous years the day began with breakfast cooked and served by the young people and their leaders and 26 of us shared a meal together despite the early start of 8.30am (and the even earlier start for those that prepared the meal). Cereals, toast and a "Full English" cooked breakfast were enjoyed with fruit juice and tea and coffee, we were soon awake and chatting!
We were joined by Josephine Burgess, our speaker for the morning who represented Save The Children fund. The money donated for the breakfast (and by those who could not join us on the morning) is to be donated to the charity for their current Yemen Appeal. We raised £252.00 in total including a generous donation from one person instead of them having a birthday party.
After breakfast we all pitched in to clear the tables and set up the church for our morning service which began at 10am. Lead by Pastor Julie Newitt the main speaking section was handed over to Josephine who gave an interesting presentation on the history of and current work of Save The Children.
Most of us present did not realise that the charity was started by Eglantyne Jebb, a British social reformer and former teacher who, as World War I was coming to an end, saw newspaper photographs of children starving in enemy countries like Germany and Austria because of Allied troops’ political blockades. Eglantyne’s fiery determination not to let people ignore what she believed was a violation of these children’s human rights led to her being arrested. She was found guilty and fined for her protest. However, the judge was so impressed with Eglantyne’s commitment to do whatever it takes to create a better world for these children, he offered to pay her fine. His money became the first donation to the international relief agency Eglantyne was working to found: Save the Children.
Nearly 100 years later children around the world are still starving, still living in war zones, still deprived of housing and education - on the streets without the protection of adults and being exploited.
I am sure that Eglantyne Jebb would be horrified if she knew this was still the situation today but she would have been even more determined to help.
We were also surprised to hear that a charity that we thought of as being to help those in disaster areas 'overseas' also works in the UK.
Josephine explained they work across the UK to support young children living in poverty by improving their early learning - narrowing the gap between these children and their better-off classmates.
They have been running the award-winning Families and Schools Together (FAST) programme in England since 2010. FAST helps build stronger relationships between parents, schools and communities. Through our Eat, Sleep, Learn, Play! programme, they award grants to provide essential items for children’s development, such as a bed, a cooker, or toys and books, to low income families who simply can't afford to buy these items themselves. The Families Connect programme empowers parents to create a supportive home learning environment, so that children can achieve their full potential at school and in life. By the end of this year they will help 23,000 disadvantaged children to leave school as confident readers through the Born to Read programme.