Chairman’s reflections on the last financial year

As we reflect on the financial year 2020-21, our Chair, The Venerable Alan Jevons shares with us his thoughts on how amazing our teams have been during very difficult times and how our mission and vision are being realised.

Archdeacons are sometimes referred to as “Bishop’s fixers” and become involved with people and situations when there is a problem. “Faith in Families” is in direct contrast and is probably the most positive and life giving part of my work.

I spend a lot of time working with groups that look backwards to a dream which they wish could return. In contrast Faith in Families constantly looks forwards. You can see this in our most recent Covid Impact Report. During the first lockdown, amongst other things, our staff supported families in crisis, we provided food parcels for those facing food poverty or who were isolated, over a thousand check-in phone calls were made to support wellbeing; toys, iPads and other items of equipment were delivered to bridge the digital divide, online activities were developed, online cookery sessions promoted healthy living, activity packs were distributed. As restrictions were lifted ways of working were made to meet the increased demand and tackle the disproportionate way our children and families were being affected by Covid. As soon as was safe to do so, our Community Cwtches and outreach projects opened to provide childcare, play sessions, summer sessions, after-school club sessions and toddler tot sessions. All of these services have respond to the changed circumstances we find ourselves in and have looked to see how best provision may be met in the future.

I spend a lot of time working with groups that centre around their buildings, as if this was the be all and end all of their life. In contrast Faith in Families centres around people. Stories abound around our centres and projects. Inspiring Futures, Brighter Futures, Bonymaen Community Cwtch, Eastside Family Support Project, Clase Community Cwtch, Teilo’s Community Cwtch, Teilo’s Tots and the St John’s Centre are all places of change and growth. One parent said,

“She (my daughter) has come home from school a completely different child. She seems so happy and non-stop talking about you and what you two did today. Thank you so much”.

One child said, “I feel more confident than before and I feel more confident to talk to my parents and I am glad I had support.”

These are just two isolated comments from a sea of stories. Our strap line is “strengthening communities” and we are proud that this strap line is not just words but is evidenced in our actions and the way people feel about us. It has been really exciting to have been named by as their charity of the year. What is even more exciting for us are the hundreds of stories, like the ones above, where individual lives have changed.

A prevailing attitude I come across so many times is that something cannot be done. In contrast the prevailing attitude of ‘Faith in Families’ is that, where there is a vision and a need, then something can be done, and quite often is. That depends upon our amazing committed and hardworking staff. As a Board we want to pay tribute to our core staff and our centre managers, indeed all of our staff, who have responded to totally different ways of working together and totally different ways of working with the children and families in their care. We are grateful for their commitment and engagement as they have so rapidly adapted to supporting and helping families in whatever way they are able. This is true both for the period of the lockdown and also for the more recent resumption of face to face contact.

All too easily we can become wrapped up with ourselves to the detriment of others. The German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was imprisoned and hanged by the Nazi regime during the 2nd World War, talked about the church as being her true self only when she existed for others. Bonhoeffer said this is where the church has often failed, by not acting in solidarity with humanity, especially the weak, the vulnerable and the oppressed. We are grateful to our many funders, large and small, as they also have helped maintain our provision, to work with the weak and vulnerable and to also strive for the best for others. That is not something “done” to other people, it is working together with them, sharing a journey, ‘calling out’ the gifts others have and ‘calling out’ the gifts we have. One of our project leaders put this so much better – “it is amazingly inspiring, as we get to witness the bravery and strength each child has within them.” That is indeed positive and life giving.

Alan Jevons
Chair, Swansea and Brecon Diocesan Board for Social Responsibility (Faith in Families).