Churches can empower communities in ways that government overseas aid never will

Tearfund Cambodia 1This week, three of my fellow bloggers have travelled to Cambodia with Tearfund to visit communities living in poverty being transformed through the local church. They are meeting people who are being given a hand up from poverty thanks to the generosity of regular givers in the UK and have been set a challenge to invite 60 new people to give regularly to support Tearfund’s work in Cambodia.

Danny Webster who is one of this site’s regular guest bloggers is one of the lucky three. He is recording his experiences on his Broken Cameras blog and uploading plenty of photos to Flickr. It all makes for fascinating reading and viewing. He has also managed to find time to write the post below specially for God and Politics.

You can find out more about the trip including Danny, Anita and Rich’s blog entries and see how you can donate to Tearfund at


When charity does what aid cannot

Tearfund Cambodia 2I’m in Cambodia this week with Tearfund, visiting projects they support and hearing about the work that changes lives. And I have came to one conclusion, actually, I’ve come to many but just one which I’ll share now. Charity, the work of Tearfund, and the support it receives from people like you, does something aid from the government never can.

I think it is vital that governments support international development, and I think it is great that Britain has increased the amount of aid that it gives. Often critics of aid policy will say people should be able to choose who gets their charity, not have it decided by government bureaucracy via their taxes.

I think both are essential. We have to support government action to help communities across the world and ensure that aid is delivered transparently and effectively.

But what I’ve seen this week is that there are some things government delivered aid couldn’t do. In villages torn apart by genocide and civil war and lingering mistrust, churches are changing communities and it is the work of Tearfund that’s making it happen.

Tearfund Cambodia 4Yesterday I met three members of a church in a village an hour south of Phnom Penh. For the past year they have been working through the ’Umoja’ (a Swahili word meaning togetherness) process to help bring the church together, and through that serve their community.

As a first step over half the church are part of a savings group, they pay in each month, and if they need to can borrow at a much lower rate than the bank in town. They’re dreaming about what they can do next, one wants to improve education in his village, they want to start growing crops on the land they have. They want to be able to look after themselves, as a community, and not rely on donations.

But donations do matter. And that’s why I’m here. Tearfund helps train and support the facilitators who run the Umoja groups, and from what we’ve seen so far this week, the facilitators are vital to helping communities understand that they are not as poor as they might think.

If you think individuals can spend money more wisely than governments, then this is an example of how it can do the most good – how it can do good without fostering dependency on anyone else.

Tearfund Cambodia 3

If you value the aid our government provides for international development, it is also vital to see the limits of that work. And the role of government doesn’t remove our responsibility. Our giving to charity can support long term and sustainable development, and development that comes from the church taking its place in the heart of communities.

This is not the sort of long term work that government aid would support, but the work of Tearfund makes it possible. And your donations can help train more facilitators and help bring education, health awareness, financial planning, jobs, food security, all at the same time as bringing the church and the community together.

Categories: Christian organisations, Church, Government, Overseas aid

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1 reply


  1. Reflections on a week in Cambodia | broken cameras & gustav klimt
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