Voices for Justice

In late 2019, two members of our team had the privilege of joining Voices for Justice; Micah’s annual political training and lobbying event in Canberra. Along with 200 Christians from across Australia and 15 leaders from the Pacific, they learnt political lobbying tactics and tips for speaking to politicians about issues of justice. They then met with several of our politicians in Parliament to argue the case for better overseas aid, as ACCI Relief Project Officer Renee Quilty explains…

What was it like to attend Voices for Justice for the first time?

There was an incredible atmosphere at Voices for Justice as so many Christians from all walks of life, and from across the country, came together in unity around one cause. When we were in Parliament House, there were other groups lobbying for important issues which impacted their own lives, however, the atmosphere of the Voices for Justice delegation was so different, as we entered parliament to advocate not for ourselves but for others.  

This year at Voices for Justice, the focus was on aid in the Pacific, therefore Micah had invited many key church leaders from the Pacific to join us. Having these incredible leaders join us created an inspirational atmosphere, as we heard firsthand about the issues impacting the region from the people working so hard in their own nations. These Pacific leaders made it clear – ‘we are not looking for a handout, we are not even looking for a hand up. But what we are looking for is to have hand in hand partnership’. It was great to partner with them in our lobby meetings and give them the chance to share from their own experiences. 

How were the introductory sessions helpful for preparing you to engage with politicians?

The introductory sessions were so useful as we were trained for our two days in parliament. Many of us had never engaged directly with politicians before and were unsure what to expect in our meetings with them, however by the time those meetings came around we were so ready with all the information and preparation needed to succeed. 

The introductory sessions taught us about the current federal aid budget and the policy issue we were advocating for – which, this year, was around aid in the Pacific. We also had preparation times with our lobby groups, mock lobby meetings and times of prayer. Not only did we feel equipped for the event but also to advocate, in the future, back in our own electorates. 

What kind of response did you get from the politicians you met with? 

At Voices for Justice, the Micah team try as much as possible for you to meet the politician from your own electorate. Therefore, we were put in a lobby group of four, with other people from Melbourne. 

All the politicians we met with responded very positively. All were Labor members and therefore have little power to make change now, however it was great to find out the ways these politicians can still champion aid. It is always great to see the short-term impact of Voices for Justice (or any advocacy) but to also remember these meetings can impact on future decisions and the continual building of relationships with these leaders over the years is powerful. 

What was your major takeaway of being involved in advocating to our country’s politicians?

Often, we can be passionate about social justice but feel frustrated at our powerlessness to do anything to bring change for those living in poverty. However, through Voices for Justice you become aware of how simple it is to go and talk with politicians, and how these conversations can have a huge impact over the decisions made in parliament around foreign aid and then on people around the world. It was amazing to know you’ve been able to join your voice with so many other Christians to advocate for justice together.

Director’s Report – Ps Alun Davies

It’s hard not to begin any report – or in fact almost any conversation these days – without mention of COVID-19 and the havoc it’s wreaking across our world. As a global missions and development organisation, with field workers and partners working in more than 16 countries, this pandemic presents one of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced in the history of our mission.

While we are doing everything we can to support these communities, their families and the many workers who are on the field, as well as those who have had to return home, we know that these are unprecedented times. Like many other organisations around the world, we do not know what the future holds or what this global outbreak will mean for our work – and for our people – long term.

We need to have more faith than ever for our present needs and for the challenges ahead, and to continue trusting in God who is always working on our behalf.

As you take the time to read through this 2019 report – which we are proud to have completely digitised for the first time – I pray you will be reminded of the difference your generosity continues to make for the individuals, families and communities it is reaching.

In 2019, your support helped more children realise their right to an education; provided life-saving healthcare to families, including pregnant women; and empowered whole communities to change their futures through sustainable community-led development initiatives.

Your support also continued to sow into our life-changing Kinnected projects, so more children could have the opportunity to grow up in a family. And it provided vital emergency relief and (ongoing) recovery for our devastated Australian bushfire communities.

Thank you, as always, for your dedicated partnership and support in all of these endeavours. May you be blessed in this time of great uncertainty and join with us at ACCI in believing for a future full of even greater fruitfulness, as we work together for the glory of God’s Kingdom.

– Ps Alun Davies

General Manager’s Report – Chad Irons

ACCI Relief total revenue for 2019 was $3.8 million. We were able to grow our overseas grant income to $508,117, up from $$224,979 the previous year. Grant income is continuing to play an important part in the growth of our Kinnected program.

At the end of December 2018, we concluded our auspicing arrangement with Transform Cambodia. For the eight years, ACCI Relief had provided program oversight and compliance for one of our key education project partners, which was approved for its own public benevolent institution deductible recipient (PBI DGR) fund and is now separate.

ACCI Relief has also continued to maximise the proportion of funds that directly benefit our programs, with 88.4% of total expenditure directed to international programs and support costs during the year. Our program support costs have continued to grow, as we have increased the level of technical support that we are providing, especially for our specialist Kinnected Program partners.

Accountability and administration costs remain quite low at 7.1% of total expenditure, with fundraising costs at less than 1% and community education at 3%. You can read our Summary Financial Report for the year ending 31 December 2019. A copy of the full General Purpose Financial Report is available for download.

Our financial statements have been prepared in accordance with the requirements set out in the ACFID Code of Conduct. For further information on the Code please refer to the ACFID website at www.acfid.asn.au.

As we look ahead through some uncertain times, we know that our organisation and project partners will be heavily impacted in 2020. We are committed to battening down the hatches and weathering this storm, because we intend to keep supporting our partners as they continue to serve, assist and empower vulnerable communities during and after this pandemic.

Thank you for your continuing support.

Chad Irons,
General Manager

Building healthy communities: Bruce and Raija, Cambodia

In Siem Reap, Cambodia, Bruce and Raija are supporting communities to practice good hygiene and stay healthy. Here Bruce and Raija explain how training and equipping volunteer health promotors to share messages about water, sanitation and basic health, is empowering families to improve their lives.

“For many years, one facet of our work in Siem Reap, Cambodia, has intentionally focused on fostering healthy families and communities. Family hygiene is critical to the health and development of communities and many diseases can be prevented by paying close attention to basic health practices at home.

This process begins with a community’s health needs being identified through discussion with local village leaders and our enthusiastic ‘everyday health workers’, who are volunteers trained to help families practice basic health measures to ensure family health security. Once topics have been agreed upon, our ‘everyday community health workers’ gather with village leaders and influencers once a week to go through a set of basic health lessons, over the course of a year. Sessions are very practical and participants are encouraged to practice what is discussed during the training, and to then go and share this information with other families in their communities.

Most of our community health workers are women, as they readily identify with the mums in their villages who deal with health issues in their families on a daily basis. The practices our health workers can cover include the importance of washing hands with soap, drinking clean water, healthy meal preparation practices, building latrines away from water wells, and keeping animals like pigs or chickens away from the house. In partnership with households, who contribute to the costs, health workers also distribute mosquito nets in dengue and malaria ridden areas, and provide water filters to those who need them. They also work in collaboration with communities to build latrines, with the project supporting material costs and individuals providing the necessary labour.

We see enthusiastic participation from these communities as people start to realise the positive results that changing their behaviour can have. For example, when families are healthier, children go to school regularly as they’re not at home sick, parents are able to work and earn money to buy basic necessities, and to plant and harvest food for the family to eat. Water-borne diseases are also reduced, lives are saved, families are smiling…

The local church has become the centre of the wellbeing of the community; the catalyst for lasting change. And the process starts with our dedicated community health workers, who have a desire to show genuine love towards their own people and their own communities. They believe in healthy bodies, healthy communities, a healthy nation and healthy, vibrant and thriving local groups serving others.”

10 years of changing the lives of women and children: Katrina Gliddon, Cambodia

In 2010, Katrina Gliddon and her Cambodian colleagues started Mother’s Heart with a vision that no woman would face a crisis pregnancy alone. Ten years later, Mother’s Heart remains the only crisis pregnancy support organisation in Cambodia; assisting over 100 women each year who are from vulnerable backgrounds, or whose pregnancies are a result of traumatic circumstances.

Last year,1 Mother’s Heart helped 110 women through its pregnancy support programs, with 90% of clients coming from vulnerable or exploitative situations. Sadly, 40% of these pregnancies were the result of rape, trafficking or sexual exploitation. Many of these women had also faced rejection from their families and communities as a result of their pregnancies – placing both them and their unborn babies at risk. Until Mother’s Heart stepped in…

“We are reaching a demographic that no one else is reaching,” Katrina says of their work. “We are preventing children and babies from being institutionalised. We’re supporting mums who want to raise their babies to keep their children, or if they are unable to raise their own child, then supporting them through kinship care or through partner organisations to find a new Khmer family for them. We are supporting women and loving and caring for them during the most vulnerable time of their lives. That’s what keeps me going. And no one else is doing it.”

Given that Mother’s Heart is the only organisation of its kind in Cambodia, the team supports women right across the country – both during and after their pregnancies. That’s why, in early 2018, Mother’s Heart opened a second site in Battambang, in addition to their main hub in Phnom Penh. Katrina says the second site allows the team to provide the same level of service to women and children in this part of Cambodia, as it significantly cuts down on travel time across the country. Like all things Mother’s Heart, she also feels like God’s hand has been on the move.

“When we started Mother’s Heart, God gave us a verse and it’s about Jehoshaphat – when he was in the desert with his people… God had led them to very parched land with no wells, no water and no rain in sight… And God said, ‘Get your shovel and dig ditches’. So, they dug ditches all day. God said, ‘how those ditches are filled with water is my problem’. And the next morning, those ditches were filled with water supernaturally.

“At the beginning of Mother’s Heart, God said it was our job to dig ditches – write proposals, raise awareness – but how He fills those ditches with funding is up to him. Over the last 10 years, we’ve got down to the wire financially, at times, but we keep digging ditches and God keeps providing. And I constantly remind Him that it’s His work – not ours – so He has to be faithful to His word. And He Has been.”

The work of Mother’s Heart

Mother’s Heart provides a diverse range of care to women at all stages of their pregnancy and early motherhood. Depending on the situation, this can include:

  • counselling, family mediation and crisis intervention;
  • antenatal and postnatal care, parenting skills and support during delivery;
  • financial support for basic needs; baby essentials; emergency housing; day-care for small children once mothers return to work; kinship care, emergency foster care and permanent foster care through our partner organisations; and
  • educational or vocational training for women who need help to start a new career or business to support their child.

Apart from those who need to be in emergency housing due to crisis situations, or because of high-risk pregnancies being monitored by major hospitals, women stay within their communities and receive support through Mother’s Heart staff coming to them. Where possible, Mother’s Heart also builds the capacity – and understanding – of those around them so that communities can continue to support mothers and their children into the future.

Keeping children in families:
ACCI Kinnected Project

In mid-2018, the founder of the Kivuli Children’s Home in Kenya asked ACCI for assistance to deinstitutionalise its residential care program and transition children into families – thus becoming ACCI’s newest Kinnected partner. Working hand-in-hand with the Kivuli leadership team, we began by meeting with all relevant stakeholders and ensuring their understanding and support of the change.

ACCI then engaged Australian social worker, Therese Osland, to provide technical support to Anne Kinuthia, the manager of Kivuli, to build a reintegration team and develop the systems and capacity to implement Kivuli’s transition to family-based care. Anne and Therese worked side by side, sharing knowledge and skills and ensuring that the transition project was linked with the Kenyan Government Child Protection Service and founded on the core principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and case management best practice.

Working together, this team was able to find homes for all 21 children within 1 year. Of these children, 3 were able to return to live with a parent, 14 went into kinship care and 4 went to live with a foster carer. The pathway for each child was based on their individuals needs and circumstances, and what they wanted for their future. “The voice of each child was vital in the process and staff were trained to work with the children in one-on-one or sibling discussions to give the children opportunities to share their hopes and fears,” Therese says.

As well as finding permanent family homes for each of the children – and working with each family to prepare them for the transition – our team also helped address many practical concerns. This involved everything from conducting training for new guardians (on topics such as positive parenting, discipline, child wellbeing and protection), to ensuring houses were large enough to accommodate new family members, and that families had adequate bedding, clothing and basic supplies to welcome the children home.

With ACCI’s support, Kivuli continues to work with the families now that the children are living with them; providing ongoing case management, financial assistance for children’s education (where necessary) and help to develop income generation activities. Our team has also linked families with local chiefs and pastors in their communities so that there are avenues for them to seek help once the transition is complete.

The Kivuli team also continues to seek opportunities to build awareness with government workers and local child protection workers around the harms of institutional care and the needs of children to grow up in families. “Consistent awareness on the needs of children to grow up in families is important because all children, regardless of their background, deserve a chance to grow and thrive in and with their communities,” Anne says. “Strengthening collaboration and increasing capacity building and support from government workers and child protection workers towards addressing these needs is essential for achieving the highest quality of care of children in their communities.”

A new start for David

Until Kivuli knocked on ACCI’s door, the pathway for David, aged 13, seemed to have been set.

Placed in a children’s home after his mother died and his father abandoned the family, David expected that this is where he’d be until he turned 18. Then, like so many other children who grow up in orphanages, he’d be out in the world on his own – with no family connections and no understanding of where he belonged…

When the Kivuli team began tracing David’s family history, they found he had a younger brother, aged six, living at a large orphanage nearby. Extraordinarily, the boys attended the same school but didn’t know they were brothers! The team then located an older sister and in time, made further links with David’s grandmother as well as an aunt and cousins. Even though David thought he was all alone, he had a whole family waiting for him!

With support from the ACCI-Kivuli team, David was able to be placed in the care of his older sister, who lives close to his grandmother. His sister received training and other support from the team – including income generation activities – and will receive ongoing assistance to help with the costs of sending him to school. The team is also in discussions with the orphanage David’s brother is living in and hope he will also be able to join the family.

“Seeing David’s 94-year-old grandmother greet him with a traditional Turkana blessing by placing her hand on his head as she greeted him was a moment that captured the true purpose of what we do,” says Therese, who oversaw the first meeting of David and his family. “It is wonderful that David – like all the other Kivuli children – can now grow up in a safe and loving family and within his culture and community.”

Caring for families devastated by the Easter bombings: Narel and Alison Atkinson, Sri Lanka

On Easter Sunday 2019, a series of coordinated bomb explosions killed 269 people, including at least 45 children, in several churches and tourist hotels across Sri Lanka. One of the churches targeted was Zion Church in Batticaloa; a church ACCI field workers Narel and Alison Atkinson have partnered with for many years. Sadly, 28 people lost their lives at Zion Church, including 14 children who had just finished Sunday School and were eating breakfast near where the bomb was detonated.

In response, the Atkinsons – who oversee the HelpKids education centre – began an urgent appeal to help families devastated by the violence. Through the support of generous ACCI supporters, and other donors both locally and globally, they raised close to AU$75,000. Working hand-in-hand with Zion Church, these funds provided:

  •   temporary income support for families; 
  •   medical assistance for those seriously injured;
  •   educational and other assistance for orphaned/single parent children; and
  •   support for families to start or increase the capacity of small businesses.

Here, Alison reflects on how her team, and two teams visiting from Australia, were able to help these families with practical and emotional support during this difficult time.

How were you able to assist families in the immediate aftermath of the bombing?

During the days following the bombing, there were many seriously injured people needing operations and care, which was a huge strain on the local government hospital. People who were injured, especially with shrapnel in their bodies, were sent home and told they would be operated on at a later date. These people had been traumatised already and having the shrapnel in their bodies was most distressing. We were able to help some of these people have the shrapnel removed at a private hospital. They were so grateful and relieved.

We then moved into assisting families with small businesses so they could support their families; this brought light and hope into their devastated worlds. We also participated in a full-day workshop for children, together with another organisation. The purpose was to allow the children to express how they were feeling with what they saw, experienced and the loss many of them felt. We did games, artwork, group chats and were able to give all the children a gift at the end of the day. 

A year on, what stands out to you about this time and the work you and your team were able to do?

Today, we continue to have a personal connection with many of the families we have helped over the past year. Naturally, their hearts continue to grieve and they miss their loved ones every day but we thank God that today, they have a smile on their faces and live with hope in their hearts, even in the darkest time.

Narel and I would like to thank everyone who gave so generously towards the appeal for the Easter bombing, which enabled us to come alongside so many amazing families. We saw great sorrow beyond measure but we are so grateful because now we see people’s lives healing and hope returning. We felt very honoured to be a part of this and that these families allowed us into their lives. 

The loss of a son

On Easter Sunday 2019, Rita* attended Zion Church, along with her husband, daughter and young son. Rita is the leader of the Sunday school and that day she was teaching.

Rita’s young son was killed in the bombing, along with many of the children that were there. Rita became very depressed as she mourned for her own son, as well as her students– many of whom she had taught for many years.

Narel and our team visited Rita and her family regularly in the weeks and months after the bombings. One of the dreams Rita felt had been lost forever was her son’s dream to follow in his carpenter father’s footsteps and join him in the workshop he hoped to start one day. Through the funds we received from Australia to help families affected by the bombings, we were able to purchase an industrial all-purpose carpentry machine to support Rita’s husband to start this workshop.

It’s now been over a year since the bombings and while there hasn’t been a day Rita hasn’t thought of her beautiful boy, she now has hope. The family also continues to build their dream carpentry business in memory of their son.