THE Church Urban Fund’s Together Network supported 687 projects in 2017, a 23-per-cent increase on the previous year, its annual report shows.
Published on Monday, the charity’s Impact Report 2017 also says that 19,068 people took part in its events and training sessions in that year: a 71-per-cent increase on 2016.
In a foreword, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the charity’s president, says: “Through the Together Network, Church Urban Fund is making a unique and invaluable contribution to communities, supporting churches, community groups, and other partners to work together to advance the common good, often in the face of very challenging circumstances.”
CUF’s executive director, Canon Paul Hackwood, said that the charity’s work in England “demonstrates the value of investing in local activity that helps people connect and work together for the common good”.
The Together Network helps churches to run social projects in their communities, and provides training and assistance. One example given in the report is Fresh Start, an initiative in Coventry, which is “providing valuable support to refugees and asylum-seekers through friendship, football, and English-conversation cafés”.
The example of Yonas, a young asylum-seeker from Eritrea, is given. By attending Fresh Start’s conversation café, he was able to pass an English-language test, which meant that he was accepted on a mechanics course at a college in Coventry.
“I hope to continue to improve my English and then complete the course, so I can get a job fixing cars here as I did in Africa,” Yonas says. “My long-term dream is to study engineering at Coventry University, and to get a job as an engineer. This is a challenge; but I am determined to keep studying hard and give back to this country.”
CUF also runs the Near Neighbours programme, funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which focuses on social integration and breaking down religious and ethnic division.
In 2017, it brought together 92,992 people through events, training, and activities: 93 per cent of the people who attended said that it gave them a better understanding of people from different religious or ethnic groups.
The report also gives the example of a priest in Leeds who, together with a Syrian community leader, launched a pop-up café, the Syrian Kitchen, in All Hallows’, which was run by Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers. Funded by a Near Neighbours Small Grant, the scheme “helped facilitate social cohesion and increase understanding of Syrian culture among more established community members”.
The report also highlights the Just Finance Foundation, which was set up last year to teach people about finance. It says that more than 14,600 primary-school pupils are learning about money management through the financial-education initiative LifeSavers.
CUF had a total income of £5.96 million in 2017; 89 per cent of its expenditure was on charitable activities, the report says.