Highlights from 12 years with CHIPS!

We’re sad to say that after 12 years with us, Paul Maxwell-Rose, our Co-Director (Programmes) has decided it is time for him to open a new chapter and explore other opportunities outside CHIPS. We caught up with him this week to chat about his highlights!

Tell us about one highlight of your time at CHIPS…

There are so many choose from! I vividly remember one brilliant training session for our Community Animal Health Workers in Ghana, where so many things just came together. We had a fantastic mixed-tribe group of people. living together for three days of intensive learning and sharing experiences.

I could see before my eyes all this amazing bonding taking place across the ethnic divides and new relationships being built. It was really special and was such a great case study of our practical peacemaking projects in action.

The photo on this page shows Paul (left) and Desmond (right) at this meeting in Ghana while newly-trained community Animal Health Workers tell the group what they have learnt, and make a declaration of how they are going to use their new skills to help their community.

And which moment will last with you from CHIPS’ work in Brixton during the pandemic?

Towards the end of our summer film-making project this year, there was a fatal stabbing outside our office. It was an awful moment and so scary for all our team and the young people – especially as many of us knew those involved personally.

But on the following day something remarkable happened. We all gathered together – the young people, the film crew and our CHIPS team. We talked, we cried, we prayed, we shared our anger about the brokenness and injustices around us. There was such openness and honesty, but we refused to let the incident break us and above all we came away with a great sense of hope and a determination to change things.

In that group, among the young people and the team, I could see so many leaders who were determined to not have the attack the day before define them or their community. They were imagining a different future and were committed to bringing about transformation in their area. That will live with me for a long time.

And dare we ask, what’s your funniest moment?

That’s got to be when Desmond, our Ghana team leader, and I fell off a bridge in Ghana! We were negotiating a fast-flowing river on a motorbike and the ‘bridge’ was really just an old tree trunk. The bike slipped into the water, along with ourselves and our belongings.

Thankfully, someone appeared just at the right moment to help pull us – and the bike – out. We allowed the bike to dry for a few minutes and amazingly it started up again straight away, so we merrily continued on our way, looking like drowned rats!

What are you most proud of?

This is an easy question – it’s the team we’ve got now! I always felt I would want to leave CHIPS when we had a really good team who didn’t need me anymore. And that’s where we are today – we have bigger, stronger and simply fantastic teams of people in both Brixton and Ghana. I have real confidence not only in their talents and abilities but also in their approach to peacemaking.          

In Brixton in particular, the pandemic has forced us to adapt and evolve quickly and we now have a group of local people with real, lived experience from the communities we partner with who are incredibly talented and capable. You couldn’t ask for a better team and it’s been a privilege to help build it.

What leaving message would you like to share with our supporters?

First, I want to say how incredibly grateful I am to each of you for your support in every way, from prayer to giving, to sharing advice and helping us to make connections – and on a personal note hosting me in so many of your homes and at your churches. Believe me, we simply couldn’t do our work without you: you have really helped us to get to where we are today.

Second, we should remember that peacemaking is not all about charities ‘running projects’. Peacemaking is a calling for all of us, and we can fulfil it in so many different ways and in many areas of our lives – from challenging injustices and inequalities and campaigning for change, to building relationships with our own neighbours and across our communities.

Practising peacemaking does not have to be complicated. But it always requires plenty of reflection, prayer and a willingness to throw ourselves into it, taking action and getting alongside God in our communities to join him in his peacemaking work. When we truly grasp that and respond, I believe we’ll be a lot closer to seeing the Kingdom of God come in our communities!

Please join us in giving thanks for Paul’s service to CHIPS and to peacemaking over the past 12 years, and in praying for him and his family as they seek God’s leading for the next chapter of their lives!

From Brixton to Bimbilla

It is just over 3500 miles from our project in Brixton to our project near the town of Bimbilla in North East Ghana.

What if we were to run, walk, swim, cycle of even row those miles this summer and raise money for CHIPS ?  We’re launching the ‘From Brixton to Bimbilla Challenge  – 3500 miles for peace’ and would love you to join in,  adding as many miles as you can towards that 3500 target. 

Maybe you could do a sponsored walk or a half-marathon or simply head to the gym and cover some miles on an exercise bike.  Every mile counts so whether it is 1 or 100 you can take part.

All you need to do is choose what you want to do and find people to sponsor you to do it.  We can provide the information you need and sponsorship forms and a lot of support and encouragement. 

Contact Emily or Andrew in the office  – emily@chipspeace.org or andrew@chipspeace.org  – let us know what you plan to do and we’ll get you started. 

Every mile you cover and every £1 you raise will make a difference.  

‘For he himself is our peace’

Why would Good Friday and Easter Day be at the very centre of CHIPS’ life and work ?

Good Friday is about the Cross, where Jesus Christ made peace.  Peace between us all and God and peace between groups or individuals antagonistic towards each other.  

Because of his amazing love for us, Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice of a peacemaker, absorbing in his own body injustice, anger, hatred and cruelty and the bitter enmity of both sides, thus removing it.  The wall which had separated nations for centuries was broken down and opposing sides were enabled to become one person.

Jesus put us right with God and in and through costly suffering, made that special peace he had promised: the deepest form of peace transforming the lives of former enemies and uniting communities.  

Easter Day is about the power of God who raised Jesus from the dead, offering us forgiveness of sins, breaking the power of Satan, conquering death itself.  Without Easter Sunday, no one would know any of this. 

As Jesus’ representative peacemakers, we too find ourselves bearing suspicion, blame and anger from both sides, in listening, being in the centre of tension and the process of changing attitudes  – but also enabling people and groups to join in God’s work of reconciliation with love.

Elfrida Calvocoressi 

Cleaning brings community together

Say hello to Kwabena, a member of the Konkomba tribe in Nakpayili who has been part of our sanitation and hygiene programme since it began in 2011. Life has been tough for Kwabena, but since meeting our team in Ghana three years ago, things are improving.

Through working with the team Kwabena has been able to increase her small herd of livestock and send her children to school. Improving the sanitation around her home and community has reduced illness and time spent away from school and work. But what Kwabena is really excited about is the changes she has seen in her community.

“Through this Friday clean up exercise, this project has created good relationships between me and the community. People want us to be part of their meetings concerning the community, and they are always happy to see us.

Now that we understand the benefits of living in a clean environment, we have also been able to promote good health and environment.”

Invitations to tribe meetings is a huge step forward for this community. Before there was secrecy and isolation, but now relations are warming and these mixed meetings are a huge tribute to the relationships that have formed over the years.

Kwabena (right) with other members of the Friday clean-up team

Kwabena was one of the first to get involved with our weekly community clean-up exercise. Ineffective waste disposal across Ghana is seriously damaging the environment and people’s wellbeing. Most households burn their waste, including plastic, releasing dangerous toxins into the air around homes which is a serious threat to family health.

We are working with families like Kwabena’s to teach them about more effective waste disposal, and working to end the burning of plastics. The team are also running monthly litter picking sweeps of communities for children and young people, sorting waste for recycling and safe disposal.

Cleaning up neighbourhoods has wider benefits: during flooding there is less strain on drainage, and less waste being spread through the community. Improving waste and litter disposal also reduces habitats for flies and other pests which carry diseases like cholera, typhoid and dysentery.

Working together has created a shared vision for this community, bridging ethnic divides and giving a space for friendship to grow.

Societal symptoms natural medicine

Clinics in Nakpayili and across Ghana are under strain. Waiting times are long, and costs are high. Most face a long journey along hot and dangerous roads if they want to see a nurse or doctor, taking them away from work or school.

Our team in Ghana run a local community-led initiative to provide affordable and effective natural medicines. We teach families what to grow and how to prepare natural remedies for everyday ailments like diarrhoea, colds and stomach aches.

CHIPS treatments focus on personal care and pastoral attention that is beyond the hospital’s capacity. In being with people throughout illness and recovery, particularly in prayer and reflection, real trust has been able to develop.

Our team also use these conversations to emphasise the benefits of sleeping under mosquito nets, and providing nets to families in need of them. These conversations lead to involvement in other CHIPS projects.

For Matunble, this is exactly what she needed from CHIPS: “Growing natural medicines introduced me to new projects. I was able to join a micro-loan scheme that is paying for my son’s education, which has helped my family a lot.”

As neighbours move around communities distributing natural medicines, connections are made and friendships built with families from both sides. Offering care in times of sickness creates deep and lasting connections based on trust that will open new windows for collaboration.

This project is addressing the very core symptoms of poverty. People are staying healthier, and recovering quicker. Selling medicines is income that benefits the family, making communities more self-sufficient in treating sickness, whilst spending less time on long journeys to hospitals and clinics.

The CHIPS Story

We are delighted today to announce a bold new chapter in the CHIPS story. A new brand identity.

We have big ambitions for our peacemaking work around the world, and we now have a brand identity that reflects and supports that drive. We’re excited, and hope you are too.

What you see on this brand new website is the result painstaking research, considered exploration – and a fair few arguments – but we hope that for all the novelty of our logo, colours, type and design, you can see that we are still unmistakably CHIPS.

Much may have changed in how we look, but who we are remains vitally important. The work we’ve done to develop our identity is expressly to enable us to do more of what we do well; to bring the CHIPS story to an ever-wider audience; to bring our unique peacemaking abilities to more divided communities around the world.

We are incredibly grateful to a major donor who has made this new brand and website possible. That means that all other donations from our generous supporters have continued to go towards our peacemaking work.

Our brand and identity are vitally important tools. They are the key to communicating our personality, and if truth be told, were in dire need of a spruce-up.

Since we last looked at the brand the rest of the world has moved on. The charity landscape has got ever-more sophisticated and technology has been developing apace. If we don’t keep up we run the risk of being overlooked as out-of-touch and irrelevant, even as the work we do – with real people, in real communities – becomes even more needed.

We now have that new set of clothes.

A new, simplified, logo that places more emphasis on CHIPS – with the “I” symbolising the divide we always straddle in our peacemaking. There’s a confidence to the mark, not least in the fact that we no longer spell out “Christian International Peace Service”. That’s still our name, don’t worry, and it will appear in full at the footer of the website and on the back of our communications – but a streamlined top-level logo helps us communicate more efficiently, and makes our name more easy to remember.

We will often partner the name with a strapline: “We take sides. Both sides.” Not only does it sum up what we do, it does so in a uniquely attitudinal, human way. It doesn’t simply describe what we do, but who we are and how we behave.

The wider design programme introduces vibrant colour and new typography – most notably with a brand new font – CHIPS Press, exclusive to us and wonderfully accessible.

A series of woodcut illustrations have been developed too, and they add a wonderfully hands-on feel to our communications.

The identity has been designed to balance impact and ease of use. We’ll be able to shout louder with less effort – and make our precious resources go much further. It’s a great investment in the future.

At the heart of our ‘new’ brand is storytelling. We have over half-a-century worth of stories to tell the world, and we’re collecting more every day. These stories bring CHIPS to life, they make us who we are – and you can read many of them here on the site.

In the future we’re also going to be braver about asking people for help. It’s important that our supporters recognise that it is only with their help that we simply can achieve our aims. In the future we will unashamedly ask supporters for financial assistance. Prayer and volunteering is vital of course, and enormously welcome – but if people can provide financial support, we mustn’t be too meek to ask for their help. This new website will be a crucial tool – as you can see from the Donations page.

The team at CHIPS HQ are enormously grateful to IE for their sterling work in bringing the new CHIPS brand and identity to life, and to This Ain’t Rock’n’Roll for building this website.

And while much is brand new for CHIPS in 2018, much remains. We are still devoutly Christian; we are still Christian peacemakers. We continue to bring reconciliation to divided communities at home and abroad, making amazing and lasting improvements to people living in very challenging environments.

Finally, it’s important to remember that before the age of ‘big charity brands’, the internet and social media, the CHIPS brand thrived. It did so because it’s based on a deep love for (and an understanding of) people – of forged relationships and support for one another. It did so thanks to an understanding that, together, people achieve more than they ever can alone.

Our new brand belongs to everyone in the CHIPS family – to all our supporters, all our communities, and all our peacemakers.

We must never lose the DNA which makes us uniquely CHIPS.

Taking risks growing up

Did you know that of the top 10 children’s films, not one doesn’t involve an adventure? It doesn’t matter if you’re a fish or a puppet, coming of age is all about getting up, getting out, and exploring. That’s because growing up is all about discovery: what are the new boundaries, how far can you push the limits? Adventure and exploration help us test these new possibilities. When many of us think nostalgically back to our childhoods, fond memories of adventures with friends, climbing trees, or cheating at Monopoly come flooding back. And any youth worker (or neurologist) could tell you that these are teaching moments. Don’t climb dead trees, don’t cheat. Our brains are learning how to take risks – and how to work out what’s too risky. Studies (and life) show that our teenage years are marked by the heightened enjoyment of risky behaviour as we seek out ways to test childhood boundaries and old rules. We will never enjoy taking risks more as we work out a whole new world, and where we need to take more care. For young people living in Angell Town, opportunities to get out and explore in a safe yet challenging way are not there. With stories of violent stabbings and police spot checks coming from every corner, parents are rightly cautious about allowing their children the freedom to explore their neighbourhood and city. Without healthy risks, we see young people turning to unhealthy ones: taking drugs and drinking, getting involved in crime and antisocial behaviour, and running errands for gang members. These unacceptable risks are having lifelong impacts. At CHIPS, we don’t like this pattern of risk-taking. We’re taking young people from the estate on fortnightly minibus trips to do something that’s just a little bit risky and challenging. Young people plan the trips, which develops organisational and leadership skills, with CHIPS simply facilitating the trip. From ice skating to trampolining, these are opportunities for young people to let their guard down and enjoy themselves. A chance to have fun, and also to have conversations – with young people and deepening their relationships with each other, and us. We don’t want to see broken legs – of course – but these trips are a brilliant opportunity to see young people exploring – and exhilarated.

Therapy takes to the streets

All around us services are waking up to the realisation that mental health is an insidious issue hitting deep within our society. From the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police  downwards, people are taking stock of how far we are falling short in care, and what the long-term impact of this will be.

It’s not hard to see why people are paying attention: in our schools, four in every five 12 to 16 year olds report feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. In our prisons, over 90% of the whole population are identified as having one or more psychiatric disorders.

The correlation between violence and mental health is becoming clearer, but nowhere is this link hitting harder than in young people caught up with gangs and youth violence. Across the board services are struggling to cope; in Lambeth alone, only 17% of mental health need is being met.

The people best placed to recognise these problems are not properly equipped. Schools are stretched to capacity, and most teachers do not have the training to identify need or signpost young people to services. Meanwhile youth projects on the estate lack consistency and longevity in building the relationships needed to recognise and support mental health issues in young people.

At CHIPS, we are providing early intervention mental health support to vulnerable people across the community, but in particular to young people. These services are typically seen by young people as untrustworthy and remote, so we are going to be delivering therapy in a street-based, young person-led setting. With clinical experts at MAC-UK our team have been trained to take what works in the clinic onto the streets.

This is where we work best, and where we have been building relationships since 2015. Addressing these underlying factors through informal and consistent attention will have a profound impact on the youth violence we are seeing, and the conflict that has affected this community for so long.

Women’s self-help helps everyone

Limiting women’s power keeps everyone poor – and it also keeps them in conflict. When women are involved in peace processes the likelihood of real, long-term success increases by 20%. And when women have access to income, it’s not just her family that benefit: the whole community does.

This has been the biggest success of our women’s self-help groups. For the last five years our team in Ghana have facilitated women’s groups, a space where women from both sides of the conflict divide can come and discuss their vision for the community.

The biggest project to emerge from these meetings is our Animal Rearing project, where each member of the group started by finding one animal for themselves, building a safe hut to keep it, and ensuring they have a simple system for feeding and giving water to the animal to keep it healthy.

CHIPS then gives each woman in the group two animals (either sheep or goats – whatever they already have) so that each woman can start expanding her herd and developing an animal-rearing business.

As their herds grow, the women each pass on two animals to a new group member, so that a new woman can start this process and eventually all women in the community who want to be involved will be able to keep animals.

But this wasn’t enough: community groups are expanding their mission to meet the needs of all its members. Groups have used our meetings to establish a micro-loans scheme, so that all members can access cash and save money when they need to – and the interest on loans goes back into the pot so that all women benefit.

Women are also farming, using CHIPS help and their neighbours support to work land that they could never have managed before – and this week we get to celebrate that CHIPS help has increased production by 150%.

But it also shows how far the relationships in the community have come – they are trusting their hard-earned money to a former enemy, who is enabling them to build a better and more sustainable future.Communities are bringing themselves out of poverty by trusting in each other.

Once these groups are established and empowered, the women take it in the direction that they want, with many of them using the benefits they gain to help their children to stay in school, to have enough nutritious food, and overall to improve the life of the whole community for a generation to come.

Taking both sides in Brixton

We are seeking to build peace between young people from two gang affected neighbourhoods: Angell Town and Clapham Park. Recent Met statistics show a 35% increase in knife crime with injury across Lambeth, and the impact of this spike is felt daily by young people on these estates.

In Clapham Park, 35 young people known to youth clubs on the estate were violently stabbed between 2012-2014, and across the Coldharbour Ward where Angell Town and Clapham Park sit there is three times the London average of violence against a person.

We will be working on these estates to provide consistent, positive relationships with young people. Using community organising methods through our membership of Citizens UK we will be encouraging young people to make changes to their estate and their communities. From asking the local housing office to fix a communal basketball hoop, to campaigning for improved community services or planning and organising a cultural trip, we want to equip young people with the drive and the tools to transform their communities.

Through these small actions, groups will be developing closer ties and building trust and friendship, becoming skilled advocates of positive change in their community.

We are hugely grateful to the Big Lottery Fund who are generously supporting this project, which is the first phase of a longer term plan to do peacemaking work with young people across these two estates. We need your support to make this happen: please consider setting up a regular gift to enable us to pay our key youth workers and community organisers to run this project for many years.