One year ago today, March 23rd 2020, the Prime Minister announced the start of the first nationwide lockdown as a response to the imminent threat of what would transpire to be a global Coronavirus Pandemic. On the same day, with the help of a small band of willing volunteers, the CARE Project started its operations under the oversight of The Parish Trust, the charity I founded at the end of 2019.
A few days prior, without really thinking about it, and knowing that the following months were going to be tough, I went on Facebook and broadcast a live video. As people tuned in to me speaking from my study at home, I made a promise that “we” would help people by providing food, a prescription collection service, and a listening ear.
At that point, there was no food, no people to help, and little direction as to what would be allowed in the strange world that we were about to be a part of. By human standards, it was foolish to go onto a public platform and say these things with out a watertight plan of action. I had no plan, but it’s my personal belief that God did.
One year on, I can only conclude that what I have experienced and have been a part of has been nothing short of a miracle. The food did come in, the people turned up to volunteer, and we overcame every obstacle that challenged us. Between 23rd March 2020 and 31st December 2020, we helped 9222 people.
We had people overwhelmed with gratitude because of how our team had cared for them and checked on them. We offered consolation as heart-wrenching conversations were shared over the telephone. We experienced the tears of joy falling from the faces of children whose mummy and daddy couldn’t afford for them to buy sweets. We heard stories of other children paying the kindness they received from our volunteers forward by raising their own funds to treat other children in their street with chocolate at Easter. We stood alongside those who mourned the loss of their career, and even their loved ones. We’re still here today, offering faith, hope, and love to anyone who is thirsty for it.
I never thought that so many people would be impacted by what has become known as The CARE Project.
It wasn’t my individual effort that made the CARE Project what it is today. Over 350 people have volunteered throughout the CARE Project’s first year, and countless others have donated money and food to assist us in providing essential services and support to those who find themselves in need. I cannot thank the volunteers enough for the determination and grit that they show day in, day out, at all hours, to ensure the CARE Project continues to serve the community. Indeed, many of them have been recognised for the incredible commitment they have shown. At one point, one third of our volunteers were under 30 years of age.
We were also blessed with the support of numerous grant funders who believed in us and gave us the vital funds that we needed to make a difference, and we have been followed by the media who have sought to help us get our aid to where it’s needed.
In the summer of 2020, the First Minister of Wales visited, and the Lord Lieutenant wrote to us to pass on the thanks of Her Majesty the Queen.
It’s been a rollercoaster journey.
As I look at where we are now, and as I dare to look at the future, I can only conclude that The CARE Project will be here to stay. Poverty in all its forms is rife in our nation. A lot of it is not the result of COVID-19. Poverty has always been a reality for many, but the last 12 months have made poverty both more visible, and more acute. There’s a lot of work to be done.
Once, Jesus reminded his followers of the reality that the poor would always be among them. He quoted a verse from the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament which says, “Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor…” (Deuteronomy 15:10-11)
These words, written thousands of years ago, still ring true and relevant today, and will continue to be so in the future. Therefore, we, as The Parish Trust, will continue our effort to care for the poor, recognising that poverty comes in a multitude of forms.
We exist for the benefit of everyone, no matter what their religious affiliations may be (or otherwise). Yet, as an organisation, it is our Christian foundations that compel us to act to bring healing and wholeness to this beautiful but broken world. We are glad that so many share this wider vision with us.
May God bless The Parish Trust as we seek to grow and develop over the next year, and may God bless and make his presence known to you in the season that lies ahead.
Rev. Dean Aaron Roberts | CHAIR OF TRUSTEES
Of further interest...
New Staff Member for The Parish Trust to tackle Food poverty and policy in exciting partnership with Caerphilly Council
In partnership with the Caerphilly Cares team at Caerphilly
Rev. Dean Aaron Roberts
Rev. Dean Aaron Roberts (BA, MA, Cert.RSCM) is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Parish Trust. Prior to his current role, Dean was the Chair of Trustees for the charity. Dean has worked in a ministerial role as an ordained minister. He also holds a position at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board as a Chaplain. He is the Vice Chair of Governors of a primary school, and has served on various Boards and Committees throughout his career. Dean is a member of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO)