Report from our Virtual MeetUp!

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In February, more than 50 supporters from 35 households across the country joined our team for a virtual meet up and update on our recent work at CHIPS!

After thanking Elfrida, our outgoing Chair of Trustees and Paul, our Director of Programmes who is moving on after 12 years of committed service, Julie outlined the vision for CHIPS going forward.

Emphasising CHIPS’s commitment to building on existing projects in Ghana and Brixton, Julie said: “Desmond has been doing a sterling job with his team in Ghana, developing numerous, community-based projects which bring together the two tribal groups and we are now looking to expand this work further.”

Turning to the Brixton, she added that the team, under Paul’s direction, has established CHIPS as part of the Angell Town community. “And the three workstreams – community organising, schools work and the family support work have helped a great number of individuals and families – some in great need, some who had previously lost hope, and some who want to create a different future for themselves and their families.”

“Although the schools work has been restricted due to Covid-19, this has been offset by the Community organising and our pandemic response work, providing essential supplies including much needed laptops for remote learning.”

Three areas of focus

Julie explained that, later this year, the Trustees and team would be setting aside time to shape our future strategy, and highlighted three themes that were already emerging from their thinking:

  • A Biblical approach to peacemaking

“Bible study and prayer is the foundation of all we do. Together with Elfrida (in her new role as Spiritual Advisor), I would like to explore how we can further grow our theological understanding of peacemaking and what that means in our work.”

  • A personal approach to peacemaking

“Within the CHIPS Guildford Supporters Group (which I have been part of for 20 years) we have looked at peacemaking in the context of our own lives, with our families, friends and neighbours and in our occupations.  I want to nurture this approach across our whole CHIPS community, to develop an embodied understanding of the role of the peacemaker, in communion with our project teams.”

  • A community approach to peacemaking

“It is deeply embedded into the CHIPS DNA that we become part of the community.  We do not ‘do to’, we ‘do with’. It is our role to facilitate members of the community to expand their contributions.”

When we recognise our own sufficiency with what we have, the more we can give, Julie said quoting from Lynne Twist’s book ‘The Soul of Money’, in which the author explains the nature of both sufficiency and partnership.

“When we recognise each person’s gifts contributing to the whole rather than seeing it as ‘charity’ or a financial transaction, we can move mountains!” she added, referencing our sufficiency in Jesus in 1 Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you and Romans 12: 4 -5: For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

“These are well-known spiritual truths, but they continue to be a radical message at the heart of our work.  When we stand in the sufficiency of God’s grace, we can each give what is needed for the benefit of the whole, and we can also give space for the other members of Christ’s body to flourish.”

A community of peacemakers

Picking up on Julie’s remarks, CHIPS Director Andrew said that “we will continue to build a culture at CHIPS in which we think and act as a community of peacemakers”.

He highlighted a World Bank report which links the increase in violence and conflict across the world to an increase in poverty and forecasts that, by 2030, more than half the world’s poorest people will live in countries characterised by fragility and violence.

“The challenge for CHIPS is how do we respond as a grassroots peacemaking charity. Where does God want to send us to join with what He is already doing, inspiring and working with the church and local communities?”

By way of example, Andrew said that CHIPS had been approached in 2019 to help communities make peace in Central Asia. While the conversation had been put on hold due to the pandemic, CHIPS would now prioritise picking this up in 2021 to consider this further and decide whether to launch a new project there.

Brixton in the pandemic

Andrew remarked how, over the past year, the Brixton team of staff and volunteers really stepped up to the challenges that the pandemic has presented and made a difference to the community.

“Many of the young people and families we have been working with are in vulnerable groups and have suffered through job losses, debt and financial hardship, mental health and digital exclusion,” he said. “All of these issues feed into, and are risk factors for, youth violence – as an incident outside our office in the autumn highlighted, when one young man was murdered and another injured.”

Andrew then invited Brixton team member Kamika Nathan to share some of her recent experience from the CHIPS youth clubs. These were launched towards the end of 2019 to provide a safe space for young people to come together after school to chill out, try out new activities and support each other.

“It’s important for them to be able to continue meeting face to face and get out of the house – for example, one 15 year-old doesn’t have their own bedroom and another has several siblings that she needs to care for at home,” said Kamika. “Thankfully we’ve been able to continue meeting once a week during lockdown, and the groups are also very active on social media and WhatsApp during the week – they love to talk!” said Kamika.

Kam also reported on the successful film project that CHIPS organised in the summer for local young people, which led to the launch of a professional short film last autumn. “In a first for Angell Town, we screened the film at an open-air event with more than 70 local people present, and the actors were some of the youngest ever to be featured on Million Youth Media, where the film has now had nearly 300,000 views!”

Kam explained that both the weekly youth clubs and the film-making project shared the same important aims: “They bring together young people from different estates to break down barriers, and they give them confidence to consider new options for their lives – a way out from the challenges that might lead them to a life of violence.”

Ghana

Andrew reported that the CHIPS Ghana team was healthy and doing well – despite a second wave of Coronavirus sweeping the country, which thankfully has not had much impact on the Northern area where we work so far.

He outlined the six current practical peacemaking projects CHIPS is running in the region which bring together communities across the divides: savings and loan self-help groups; agriculture (animal rearing and crops groups); animal health (through our community animal health workers); sanitation and hygiene; natural medicine (including our new child malnourishment programme); and beekeeping.

Andrew said that the savings and loan groups and animal rearing groups, in particular, were continuing to expand and make a strong impact by bringing communities together while, as in recent years, some crops had performed better than others due to weather and drought.

The sanitation and hygiene work is also making great progress, he said, including through building new toilets and supporting villages and schools with new handwashing facilities – something which the pandemic has made even more of a priority.

CHIPS’ new child malnourishment project which launched last summer has made a good start, he reported, with good engagement from mothers seeking help for their often acutely malnourished children. “We are now praying for better engagement from fathers, which would be helpful in building momentum.”

CHIPS’ beekeeping project has had a slower period recently due to various local factors, he said, adding that we hope to build momentum this year.

Encouragingly, the Ghana team had recently completed annual review meetings, which bring together group members from different tribes to share experiences and learnings and strengthen the new friendships they have formed through their work together. “These were much appreciated after a year of restrictions and were well really well attended and supported!”