Two recent Purple Shoots borrowers have proved the model we have been developing for working with local churches to combat poverty. It draws on the great things that churches have to offer – a pool of skilled and well connected people, especially amongst their retired members, buildings in the centre of communities, and a commitment to respect and help those who are struggling. I hope that this success will encourage other churches to join in.
Purple Shoots has an office in St Catherine’s Church in the centre of Pontypridd. The church is a distribution point for Foodbank and also runs a CAP (Christians Against Poverty) Job Club. Church members involved in these two things were concerned that whilst they were good things to do in themselves, in isolation they couldn’t effect any lasting change on the people who came to them.
So together, we have developed a more holistic approach, creating a complete pathway for individuals who need help to take the next step to improve their lives. It includes:
- · help for a crisis (Foodbank),
- · help with looking forward, and training and mentoring (Jobs Club and ongoing support from the network of helpers, including volunteering opportunities)
- · help with income generating ideas (through one to one sessions or via self-reliant groups)
- · and help to start a business (through Purple Shoots.)
Last week one of my loans was to a young man who originally came for a Foodbank parcel. The church nurtured him through the Job Club, rebuilding confidence, helping him with some specific issues, giving him some work experience in the church’s cafe and finally helping him identify what he would really like to do and bringing him to Purple Shoots for a very small loan to start it up. He is now well on the way to independence from the benefit system and to being a successful business owner.
A second loan in the same week was to a lady who has also been supported by the church. She had come through the Job Club, had a small loan from Purple Shoots and now has her own little business with a growing customer base in the town centre.
Microfinance like this works!