CAP - Christians Against Poverty
CAP is a debt-relief charity, started in 1996 by John Kirkby, and which has since risen to be one of the most-respected in the UK. It has almost 300 debt centres based at local churches right across the UK, with a vision to open a total of 500 to reach the entire nation. It empowers local churches to reach out to their neighbourhood with practical debt help and the love of Jesus. It also helps people to learn budgeting skills through its CAP Money Course, running in over 1000 churches, and it recently started CAP Job Clubs to help people back into work.
Whitehaven’s CAP Centre opened in May 2013, the third one in the county. The centre is based at Cornerstone Christian bookshop in town, but is run by St John's which has partnered with four other local churches to offer support and help to those in the grip of debt in the Whitehaven area. The CAP Whitehaven Church Partnership Group includes:
- St. John’s, Hensingham
- St. Andrew’s, Mirehouse
- St. Bridget’s, Moresby
- Woodbank Community Church, Woodhouse
- New Life Church, Whitehaven
The aim of the group is to support the CAP Centre, through prayer, finance and practical assistance. The Centre Manager is Julian Berkeley who, with the help of a team of Befrienders, visits clients in their home to discuss their situation, communicating with CAP headquarters in Bradford who negotiate with creditors and who set up a CAP account for clients to pay money into, ensuring that there is enough left over for day-to-day living expenses. According to their situation, the clients will be given a timescale to becoming debt-free (usually within 5 years) as long as they stick to the plan. The Befrienders stay in contact with clients, helping and supporting them through the time it takes to reach debt-freedom.
How good is CAP’s service?
- 94% of clients described the service as 'life transforming' or 'a great help'
- 20,000 people are helped to become debt-free EACH YEAR!
- Every year 10,000 people learn how to budget more effectively for their household through the CAP Money Course
- 500 people each year find a new life in Christ
- Martin Lewis (of Money Saving Expert.com) describes CAP’s service as “the best in the UK”.
- Do I have to be a Christian?
No, CAP’s industry-leading service is available to everybody, no matter what their religious beliefs.
- Does it cost anything?
No, CAP’s service is completely free for clients, although you may be so delighted with it that you’d like to see other families being helped in the same way by giving a donation (there is no obligation to do this).
Lives transformed in the sunshine!
The summer CAP client lunch event was held on a gloriously sunny day in the convivial surroundings of Phil and Dave Sisson's garden in Midgey and what a happy event it was! Lots of CAP clients were invited, there was terrific support from the wonderful CAP team of volunteers and we had the honour of entertaining the CAP evangelism team leader, Wendy Parkinson, who had been invited to talk to the gathering.
We sat round, cold drinks in hand, chatting away and after the first course Wendy told us about her early life, the abuse she had suffered and how dirty she felt as a result. But, wonderfully, she had discovered that Jesus Christ could make her clean - she didn't have to be clean before she came to Jesus - and that the moment she had asked Him into her life, everything had changed: she felt whole, she was clean and she was loved!
This was a powerful story but, best of all for those gathered in the sunshine, we heard that this offer of wholeness was for everyone and upon hearing this there were three clients who asked Jesus into their lives, to begin his life-transforming work within them!
We sat and prayed with them and later one of those new Christians texted "Thank you so much for today - I feel so much better"! The puddings tasted even better after that!
Two further clients go debt free
In March two more CAP Whitehaven clients reached that magic milestone of debt freedom! One was a man who's been working with CAP since September 2016 and, like many clients, he was struggling on a low income not just to make ends meet for himself and his son but also to manage his debts. Under CAP's wing and with their expertise and 'muscle' in the credit industry they helped him on to an affordable plan which he managed as he worked towards becoming debt-free. Along the way we helped with the occasional food shop, to give his budget a break, sourced some carpetting for his bare floor and encouraged him to join a skills programme to improve his employability.
He and his son were also invited on a CAP Discovery Break holiday in the South Lakes - a much-needed break away from all the pressures of life. The Job Centre, who referred him, have been delighted with CAP's involvement and support of this client and we recently heard that he is now debt-free; truly a great end to a life-transforming journey.
The second client to become debt-free (bringing the centre's numbers to 13 debt-free clients) is a single lady who'd been living on a tiny income for years and only just surviving. She has been a model client and was really keen to take this chance to deal with her debts, once and for all.
Starting in October 2016 she worked steadily with CAP, doing everything she was asked, and even donating some of her amazing paintings to the centre to help us raise funds to help more people like her. In March she completed her journey to becoming debt-free and is truly thrilled at the professional, caring and effective support she has received through CAP Whitehaven and the UK service.
True 'Family Time' for CAP Clients
Two CAP families recently returned from a CAP Discovery Break enthusing about the amazing time they had enjoyed, especially the wonderful people they had met. Client mums D and M, with their teenage daughters J and C, were nominated for the CAP break at the Abbott Hall hotel in Grange-over-Sands. Many clients have never had a holiday at all, or very rarely, and these breaks are something that make a real difference for those struggling to manage day to day.
For CAP clients such an opportunity is a real blessing in amongst all they face. It's a chance, like any holiday, to unwind, relax and spend time with those you love as well as meeting new friends. The CAP Discovery Breaks encourage that and also include all sorts of extras like pampering sessions, youth events, face-painting, visits to animal or theme parks and so on and, best of all, they are completely free for the clients! In addition the CAP staff run sessions for the clients on Christian themes: Worry, Anger, Self Worth, Why go to church and so on.
Our client families returned from their four-day break enthusing about the 'family' atmosphere; "We really didn't want to leave," they sighed, "it was so lovely ... and we are going to meet up again in Blackpool!" All four had made a commitment to follow Jesus and one mum, D, collected a Bible from the Cornerstone Bookshop with a real sparkle in her eyes.
St. John's hero runs a marathon for CAP
How do your feet fancy banging down on to a hard surface over 30 000 times for 3 hours solid? Well, that's what Paul Schofield's feet suffered when he completed the London Marathon for CAP on April 23. Paul had been in training for months beforehand, running in all sorts of conditions over all sorts of terrain in the Lake District and across West Cumbria. In order to raise interest (and funds!) in his attempt he had visited several local churches as well as St. John's to highlight the work of CAP and why he was prepared to put himself through this gruelling preparation and then the toughness of the event itself.
On the day he was accompanied to the capital by his wife, Roxanna, and their daughter Chloe. The weather was kind with a gentle breeze, dry and cool conditions and Paul made the most of them, running the 26.2 mile course past some of the nation's most iconic sights in a fantastic time of 3 hours 14 minutes and 47 seconds. And how much did he raise through his magnificant efforts and the generosity of his friends and the good people of the local churches in Whitehaven and beyond? The astonishing sum of £1300 which was shared between CAP Whitehaven, to support its work of bringing the Gospel with top-notch debt counselling to the local populace, and also CAP central.
Paul, you are a true hero and we at CAP Whitehaven salute you!