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A Little Red Envelope

Christian Aid Week runs from 10 to 16 May 2020

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore our understanding of the work of Christian Aid.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and three readers.
  • You will also need a Christian Aid envelope and, if possible, some information about local events during Christian Aid Week.


Leader: One day this week, a little red envelope is likely to drop through your letterbox. It will look like this.

Show the Christian Aid envelope.

Some people will put the envelope straight in the recycling bin; after all, we get so many unrequested appeals for donations. Other people will lose track of it among all the other mail that arrives daily. Today, though, we are going to find out a bit more about this envelope so that we can help our households to make a thoughtful decision about what they might do with it.

The envelopes are distributed by volunteers who work for an organization called Christian Aid. It has been around since 1945, when it was founded by British and Irish churches to help refugees following the Second World War. Over the decades, the charity’s work has expanded across the globe into areas of work beyond short-term humanitarian relief, while still providing support for the victims of natural disasters, wars and genocide.

Reader 1: Its widely recognized that short-term relief provides only immediate help; it doesnt solve long-term problems. Therefore, Christian Aid focuses a lot of time and energy on supporting development projects in more than 50 countries. In India, it has helped to found EcoVeg, a farming co-operative that advises on farming methods and gives business training so that the farmers avoid exploitation and receive the best price for their crops. Another example is the Collective Action for Adolescent Girls Initiative, which is a programme funded by Christian Aid that aims to improve the opportunities available for adolescent girls in Nigeria so that they can live productive and meaningful lives.

Reader 2: Christian Aid fights against injustice, too. It has been working in Afghanistan for decades, including on projects to improve access to justice for women who have been denied their legal rights by the traditional, male-dominated courts. In Zimbabwe, it has partnered with church leaders to combat gender-based violence, helping local churches to model the correct attitudes to vulnerable women.

Reader 3: Local and international governments, private sector firms and individual community leaders often have substantial financial control. Sometimes, these people make good decisions, but sometimes, they don’t. Christian Aid has expert researchers who write policy documents that aim to establish the key global issues, the facts around them and what could be done to change lives positively for the millions who suffer as a consequence of these decisions.

Christian Aid has helped to set up various bodies:

- Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), which pulls together international, national and community volunteers to develop the systems and conditions for positive social change
the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which brings together 14 aid charities to deliver humanitarian aid in accordance with international standards
Global Justice Now, which campaigns on issues of global justice and development, producing research on topics on the developing world and free trade
- the New Internationalist media organization, which is dedicated to socially conscious journalism and publishing

Christian Aid is working to enable the best decisions to be taken by those who hold the social, financial and political power across the world.

Time for reflection

Leader: Christian Aids purpose is to make a difference in the world in which we live. Can we be a part of making this difference? One easy way to help would be to stop the little red envelope ending up in the recycling bin. Maybe we could see how many members of our household, including ourselves, can be persuaded to put some money into the envelope. It doesnt matter how little; it will all add up. A few days after the envelope has been delivered, someone who has official identification will call to collect it, and its contents will be sent to Christian Aid.

Like many charities, Christian Aid has several means of raising funds. Online, there is a range of internationally manufactured products for sale and the charity is always happy to let people know about fundraising events. There will probably be a sponsored walk not too far from us. (If possible, find out about this prior to the assembly.)

There are, of course, other organizations that do similar work. Some well-known ones include Oxfam, Save the Children, the Red Cross and the World Food Programme. Like Christian Aid, some charities, such as Muslim Global Relief and CAFOD, have explicit links to a particular faith group. In addition to all of these groups, many smaller initiatives exist, often with close links to a particular community.

Christian Aid works alongside, rather than as a rival to, many of these organizations at a local or international level. Some of us may prefer to support a different charity, instead of Christian Aid. Thats fine. However, when the little red envelope pops through our doors, let’s make it a trigger for us to consider our part in international aid and development. We can also encourage others to do so, too.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for everything that we have.
We recognize that we are fortunate in so many ways.
Please help us to consider the poor and the vulnerable.
Please help us never to turn away, but always seek to help.
Remind us of this when the little red envelope pops through our door.
Help us to do something!

Publication date: May 2020   (Vol.22 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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