This is no time for apathy

Almost daily, stories of war, famine, natural disaster and political upheaval arrive in our inboxes, twitter feeds or newspapers.  At the end of 2014, the UNHRC reported over 59 MILLION forcibly displaced individuals – 19.5 million of whom are refugees. From Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Palestine to Syria, the true magnitude of this worldwide crisis is not found in the numbers of people displaced, but in their stories and faces and names. Words like “displaced”, “refugee” and “crisis” mask the real human face of these stories. To read more, check out Humans of New York’s Refugee Stories series in collaboration with the UNHRC.

This is no time for apathy or complacency; this is a time for vigorous and positive action. Martin Luther King

How are Common Change groups rising to the occasion? In small and personable and profoundly beautiful ways.

  • A group in Bellflower, CA is funding 200 relief kits for immigrants along the Greek-Macedonian border. Each kit contains portable food, water, medicine, diapers, baby formula, a blanket, and more. “We are far geographically from these migrants but our hearts and prayers are with them and we are hoping to help them in a tangible way as well through providing these kits.”
  • A group in New Jersey just paid for treatment costs for a 19-year-old man with Graves disease living in a Palestinian refugee camp.
  • A group in Cape Town sourced a double bed for a Malawian refugee family trying to get back on their feet.
  • A group in Manchester purchased sleeping bags for a newly arrived Romanian family.
  • Friends gave a graduation gift to a young Somalian man who just graduated college. His mother was living in a UN camp in Egypt and sent him ahead to the US when he was just 4 years old, in the hopes of a better future. The whole family is now settled in Nebraska.
  • A group in Wisconsin paid for university fees for an Egyptian man as his family seeks amnesty after religious persecution.
  • Friends in DC collaborated to get a computer for a Congolese refugee to help him stay connected with friends and family and begin looking for employment
  • A group paid for chemotherapy for a 2-year-old Syrian refugee child living with her parents in Lebanon.
  • A group purchased 5 tents for Iraqi families in a refugee camp.

Our Group in Old Trafford (UK)

IMG-20150918-WA0006After completing The CAP Money Course we started asking how to start living more generously. Then we remembered reading about Common Change in “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. Within a short time, a group of friends who pray and do life together with us started a group in the UK. It’s great having the money safe in the Common Change fund to trust our contributions will get directly to people we care about who are in need.

Some stories we have gotten to be a part of:

James, a single parent, was under pressure from social services about keeping on top of housework. Our group was able to demonstrate that there is a community of people who care about him and his family and help resolve concerns by cleaning up the house together and hiring equipment.

Another friend, Samantha, was really stressed with anxiety, dizziness and panic attacks. Our group was able to connect her with a great chiropractor. Each week my wife and Samantha would drive together to doctor visits that really made a difference with in Samantha’s condition.

Patricia, another single parent in our neighbourhood, moved to a new house which didn’t have enough storage.  Our group was able to buy much needed furniture for them, and buy them a house warming present.

Lisa was really struggling with her bills and we were able to bless her family with a gift to pay their taxes. They felt loved by a wider community.

A kid from our childrens’ school had their bike stolen. It was great to show the family someone cared by buying a new one, as well as installing a lock outside the house to make sure this one stayed.

All of these stories would not be possible had it not been for Common Change and for a group of friends who were happy to try something new here in Manchester. There are more stories and we are excited there will be even more in the future as we look to build relationships with people in our community who become our friends and join this radically different economic movement!

Malc Sterling lives in Old Trafford with his wife Lynda,  4 kids and dog collie. Malc is a firefighter and Lynda is an artist. They love living in a diverse neighbourhood and getting to know their neighbours.

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Pope Francis on The Role of Money

“Money has to serve, not to rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them. The Pope appeals for disinterested solidarity and for a return to person-centred ethics in the world of finance and economics.”

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Common Change is growing in South Africa

sa handThere are arguably few places in the world where the need for a new model of giving is as critical as in South Africa. The country is still dealing with the effects of apartheid in the current economic, social and political spheres. This shows itself in economic disparity and deeply felt wounds of inequality and lack of access to opportunity.

South Africa is characterized not only by deep economic chasms, but by even deeper relational chasms that drive us ever further apart.

Common Change is founded on these principles: God has created an economy of enough and intends for people to care for one another. This is not simply about benevolence or charity, but about a call to friendship. Common Change South Africa seeks to support those who believe that giving together and in deeper relationship with each other will multiply our giving, expand our impact, grow our intentionality and increase our communal wisdom.

We believe that what we all do on our own already will be done better together.

Since May 2015, four South African groups have been practicing giving in this way: pooling money with people they know, to share with people they care about. The collective generosity of this small gathering of ordinary individuals has been astounding to watch! In 4 months, these groups have contributed over R40,000 rand to help meet the needs of friends, neighbours, colleagues and family.

They have helped provide a new bed for a refugee family, truck driving lessons for a father to get more stable work, an educational psychologist assessment for a girl in high school, school fees for a family of four, and university entrance fees for a young man studying community development. They’ve contributed toward the monthly expenses of a family doing critical grassroots organizing in one of the poorest townships in Cape Town, and contributed toward an internship position for a friend.

Now it’s time to formally register as a non-profit company so that Common Change South Africa can continue to grow and support a movement of generous and connected people. We’ve gathered a group of committed individuals who are championing Common Change on the ground, serving as Board Members, Advisors and Supporters. We cannot wait to see the growth of Common Change South Africa in the coming months.

Want to keep connected to the growth in South Africa? Here are a couple of ways to do so.

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Switching to Abundance and Cultivating It

Over the past decade a small but growing number of people have been making monthly financial contributions together with people they know, making it possible for their Common Change groups to help people they care about. From this group fund small gifts with great love have been made. Thousands of requests have been presented and met – from helping start micro businesses, covering rent and utilities, to a weekend away for couple who needed rest.

6672583037_e16426a9a2_bOne of the things that makes Common Change unique is a simple but profound decision to start first by pooling money together. By starting with a group of people who decides to contribute a monthly amount together instead of first starting with specific needs and/or opportunities to donate money to, Common Change has introduced a new way of giving charitably. This is a key distinction of how Common Change works and operates.

Intentionally starting with the group fund, members experience the deep phenomenon of abundant giving. By pooling together the little or lot that we start with, the abundance of the resources is emphasized rather than the scarcity of the need. The shift may seem subtle but has exponential impact in its application.

Abundance is the “yes and”.  It is about possibility and imagination of what might be.  It is building win/win relationships for all who are involved. It is the realization that we have strengths and potentials, and that we all have something to contribute.

The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed. Mahatma Gandhi

Popular crowd funding sites like gofundme.comkickstarter.com, and Indiegogo.com have allowed individuals to raise money for a stated need. I’m in need of X, looking to raise X dollars, for X reason. While there has been a significant amount of money raised by these platforms, Common Change has created a different approach that allows for ordinary people to do extraordinary things together.

By pooling resources together with people you know, a group begins to reflect that there is enough for all of us. It’s not that there’s too many people or not enough stuff as much as it is that we as a people are still learning how to share with one another.

To cultivate abundant giving with other people, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Name what matters to you.
  2. Appreciate what you have over what you want.
  3. Create an environment of abundance and join Common Change
  4. Give to others. Set up a monthly contribution.
  5. Practice gratitude. Share items/clothing that you have not worn in 12 months (or even consider sharing items you like!).
  6. Begin thinking of people you know, or want to get to know, who might benefit from a gift.
  7. Invite two people to do steps 1 and 2 for 6 months.
  8. Share secretively, without expectation to receive in return.
  9. Host a generosity dinner.
  10. Remind yourself … you have enough.

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” John Bunyon

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Wendell Berry on Economy

If given the choice to have an economy based on generosity or based on scarcity, what would you choose?, inquired Wendell Berry.

Need A Computer For School?

“Which computer is best for college?” is a question that is asked by many who are returning back to school this fall.  And for others it’s not even a question of which one is best but “How can I afford one?”.  Personal computers have become an important part of society with students depending on them for routine activities that are required for their education.

Common Change is thrilled to see so many groups taking the opportunity to help people they care about launch a new school year well with a much-needed computer that will help eliminate obstacles that otherwise would be daunting.

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Here are a few examples of ways that Common Change groups are helping in the area of education:

  • Provide a laptop computer
  • Pay for books for the semester
  • Help with tuition costs
  • Classroom supplies
  • Clothing and uniforms

So, don’t be afraid to ask a student if they have everything they need for school.  You might be surprised how a simple question of inquiry can communicate care and open opportunities.

 

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Sherry (above) participates in a Common Change group and shared a request for a computer for Brenda, a young woman who is off to college and who she cares for deeply.  Her group quickly helped meet this need.

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Losing Hope

lookingjob

What do you do when you feel like you’ve exhausted every possible resource and every creative idea you’ve had… and you still can’t find a decent job? This is what one young man is trying to figure out that recently contacted Common Change for help.

Having the group of people that you know, that are willing to pull money together, and discuss how to help someone who’s looking for a job is at the heart of collaborative giving.
Take your next step in helping someone that’s looking for a decent job by donating to Common Change.

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