ADRA-UK, through its ‘I am Urban’ initiative, has partnered with the Trans-European Division (TED) to deliver the Umbrella Project (UP).
UP is a UK-based partnership between 73 urban community hubs, three small urban charities, eight civil society organisations and a faith-based organisation, led by ADRA-UK, through its ‘I am Urban’ initiative to address some of the issues caused by the fallout from COVID-19. These entities are working together to provide a multi-agency approach to food security, physical and mental well-being and sustainable livelihoods for some of the UK’s most vulnerable groups (the homeless, rough sleepers, refugees, the unemployed, people on low incomes, people living with long-term chronic health conditions and BAME people living with HIV/AIDS) across key major cities in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. While in-person worship was restricted and church services were held on virtual platforms, ‘church without walls’ was active in community hubs throughout the UK, being the hands and feet of Jesus to thousands of people who were hungry, who were in need of hygiene products, baby clothes and food, or who were concerned about their mental well-being. Food has been served, delivered and distributed. Personal protective equipment in the forms of masks, shielding equipment and hygiene products has been made and distributed. Mental wellness initiatives have been carried out over Zoom, in person and over the telephone, and some of the key hubs will be addressing the need for sustainable livelihoods with the service users and beneficiaries, where applicable.
Stories have emerged of interest being sparked in the Christian faith, and in the particular beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, from the interactions with the hubs. Beautine Wester, who is leading the Clapton community hub, stated, ‘In my 28 years of being an Adventist, this is the first time that I have connected with my whole neighbourhood in such a way where there is so much love, care, passion and drive. She continues, ‘I have never seen so many people come out with the church to support the vulnerable.’
‘The onslaught of COVID-19 has been extremely challenging for so many people in the UK,’ said Ian Sweeney, BUC President and Chair of the Board of ADRA-UK. ‘We have lost members to this dreadful virus and we continue to grieve with their families. Many of our members have been challenged with the lockdown and want to return to worship in their own sanctuaries. But, with the apostle Paul, I believe that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28, NIV); and through these community hubs we were able to have a tangible presence in local areas and impact the lives of those we have previously not been able to reach with the Gospel.’ Speaking about the partnership, Raafat Kamal, President of the TED, stated, ‘We are excited about the ‘I am Urban’ initiative and this partnership. I recognise that ADRA-UK, in partnership with Community Services (NEC, SEC, BUC and TED), has embarked on an ambitious initiative that can leave impactful footprints within the BUC on a national scale. I have many positive expectations of this project.’
Written by: Catherine Boldeau (Development Education Officer and ‘I am Urban’ lead)