As the deadline of 8 May for our WEE BOX appeal donations being doubled by the UK government fast approaches, it’s worth celebrating how support from people in Scotland is changing lives overseas.
Since launching the appeal in February, Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) have shared stories with supporters in schools, parishes and communities of how their money has helped families stand up for their rights and work their way out of poverty. Knowing their donations will be doubled by the UK government has inspired many people to get involved, including putting on their own fundraising events.
It’s been heart-warming to meet pupils and teachers to hear what new and exciting ideas they’ve had for raising money for the WEE BOX appeal. We’ve had everything from silent discos and playground pop parties to sponsored muddy puddle walks and the usual great fund-raisers like the bake-off at St Joseph’s Academy in Kilmarnock, where this year they had an impressive WEE BOX cake filled with chocolate coins.
People in parishes have also been inspired to act by organising fundraisers lunches, quiz nights and table top sales.
Many supporters have reported they felt a strong connection with the Lang family in Cambodia, who are featured on this year’s WEE BOX. The Langs depend on fishing and farming to survive but were badly affected by gangs coming into their stretch of river and using dynamite to catch the fish, drastically reducing stocks, and making it harder for local families to feed themselves.
In 2006 a new law on communal fishing was introduced in Cambodia which allowed communities to collectively own their traditional communal fishing areas. SCIAF’s partner, DPA, helped the villagers to set up community fishing associations and gain legal ownership of their stretch of river and have the unique right to fish on it. This was a massive step forward, allowing them to use, conserve and protect their stretch of river.
The Langs and community fishing association worked closely with police and local authorities to patrol the river and prevent illegal fishing. Very quickly the number of fish in the river soared.
Now they have fish all year round and can sell what they don’t need in the local market, so they have money to buy some of the everyday things they need.
This is a wonderful example of how people in Scotland are helping SCIAF to tackle the structures that make people poor as well as helping people have the knowledge and resources they need to support themselves.
As part of our WEE BOX appeal, I was invited to Fraserburgh to meet local fishermen and share stories of the fishermen we work with in Cambodia, and to learn more about the issues affecting Scottish fishing communities.
My visit to the North-east fishing town showed me, once again, the strength of solidarity that binds us rather than separates us. There isn’t us and them, first world and third world. The cares and preoccupations of people here at home are the same as those of the people we work with around the world: how can my family live peacefully, safely, securely; how can I earn a living and provide for my family? We are one human family, striving to survive and thrive. While the scale and level of technology differ, the same issues of sustainably managing fish stocks and having the right boats and equipment to get the catch to market in good condition preoccupy both groups of fishermen.
The importance of feeling a connection with those we support overseas and knowing our money is making a difference cannot be underestimated – and collectively we can have a huge impact.
Thanks to the generosity of SCIAF supporters, we were able to help over 207,000 people in 27 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East last year.
No matter how big or small the donation, each makes a real difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world struggling to survive. Scotland’s generosity should be celebrated. Please make your WEE BOX donation before 8 May to ensure it will be doubled by the UK government. To find out more visit www.sciaf.org.uk or call 0141 354 5555.
Alistair Dutton, director, SCIAF