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16 December 2011

Lives saved through charity’s media coverage

This year Christians Against Poverty (CAP) received a staggering 178 phonecalls from people who heard about them directly through the media. While the majority of CAP's referrals are from word of mouth, GPs, housing officers, social workers etc, this year they have seen a significant rise in the number of calls due to media coverage. They believe that, potentially, around 59 people's lives were saved through such coverage.

CAP is a national debt counselling charity with a network of 190 centres. CAP offers hope and a solution to anyone in debt through its unique, in-depth service. Marianne Clough, national PR manager, explains why their work is so vital: "Sadly, more than a third of our clients are considering suicide as a way out when they first call us, according to a recent survey we made of 1,300 clients. Debts are not just about money. They are wound up with issues like job loss, wrecked relationships, feelings of being an inadequate parent and repossession of the family home. When creditors add pressure on top, it can be very destructive."

The charity aims to show God's love in action by providing sustainable poverty relief through free debt counselling, advice and practical help. CAP's unique 'hands on' approach empowers people to help themselves out of poverty and be released from the fear, oppression and worry generated by overwhelming debts. They provide sustainable poverty relief by teaching their clients vital budgeting skills that will last a lifetime.

CAP operates through a growing network of UK centres, all opened in partnership with a local church. The charity began in 1996 when John Kirkby, armed with a £10 donation, started to help people in his local community who were trapped in debt. Now the organisation's international director, John comments: "I am overwhelmed by what God has done. To see thousands of lives changed every year is truly wonderful. I do believe that God has given us a 21st century answer to one of the most pressing social needs within society today. Jesus met people's needs with love, compassion and practical help. Our desire is to simply do the same and watch the miracles unfold."

The charity is now a fast-paced, growing organisation with a goal to help alleviate the national problem of debt in the UK by having at least one CAP centre operating in every major town and city by the year 2015.

With such a clear and far-reaching vision the need to be known is vital. However, as is often the case with charities, their advertising budget is miniscule. So they continually work with the media to get their message out there. And it is working - in November alone they had 167 bits of media coverage (radio, news websites, local newspapers). This means they potentially reached 35.8 million people with their message of hope in just one month.

Marianne explains: "We work with the media to give another voice on finance and poverty. Personally speaking, it is a huge privilege to be able to inject some hope into the gloomy news about the economy. It also shows what I have always believed to be true - that the media can be a huge force for good, in this case bringing literally live-saving information to people. I hope it encourages the wider Church to keep engaging in this way. You never know what God will do with it."

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