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The Besom helps people make a difference. It provides a bridge between those who want to give money, time, skills or things, and those who are in need. It ensures that what is given is used effectively. The service it provides is free. Issue No. 43

Caring for the Karen

The Karen are the largest ethnic minority in Thailand. Around 400,000 Karen hill tribe people are living in the remote mountainous area of northwest Thailand. Often very poor, subsistence farmers they struggle with the climate and distances to travel, sometimes living 50 or more miles from the nearest town, hospital and secondary school. 40% of the population lack access to clean drinking water, causing high levels of disease. Only 70% of children complete their secondary school because they live too far away or have no money for food or travel. The difficult terrain has restricted development and kept the region largely inaccessible, making it the poorest part of the country.


Life Changing

The Karen were semi-nomadic people using swidden (slash and burn) farming methods, moving around on a seven year cycle. However, in 1968 the Government insisted that they must stop moving around. They were offered Thai ID and land rights if they could prove longevity. Now they are settled but their lifestyle is still influenced by their culture. Farmers such as the Karen are the lowest income group, with 22% living below the poverty line. They face problems such as the exhaustion of land fertility and increased pollution of water resources. As subsistence farmers they rely on growing rice but often irrigation systems break down with the heavy rains depriving them of sustainable crop production.

The Karen Hilltribes Trust (KHT) has been working with the Karen people in approximately 400 villages in around 100 square miles of northwest Thailand since 2000. The aim is to help them to help themselves to build a better future. The 3 core objectives are to improve health by installing clean water systems, latrines/showers, blankets and mosquito nets; to improve access to education and to improve income generation by putting land back into production. The Trust's long term vision is to see the Karen people empowered to help themselves in a sustainable way. The Trust works with the Karen people to install and maintain new water systems for the villages. They employ locally-based staff who, together with the villagers, install an average of 10 systems a year.

In 2011, KHT has installed 10 new village water systems, 225 latrines/showers, benefitting around 6000 people; helped 400 children from various villages with food and transport to school, sponsored 150 students through university and vocational college and helped 2000 farmers and village people with irrigation systems.

Over the last couple of years, money given through The Besom has gone towards the building of a kitchen and dining room for one primary school and the building of a washroom and dormitory at another.

This year there have been exceptionally heavy rains which have resulted in landslides causing damage to the water pipes of the water systems, often high in the mountain at the water source. Besom money givers have funded the repairs and improvements to three water systems. One village needed 30 lengths of 2-3 inch pipes replacing; another village had a major landslide and needed replacement pipes installing. This water source was 5 miles from the village, very high in the mountains. The third village had grown in population since a clean water system was installed a few years ago, so it was necessary to install two new tanks to ensure supplies of clean water were available all the year round for everyone. The results of clean water are an immediate reduction in disease and the villagers have more time to work in the rice fields. This coming year KHT hope to continue with their projects and to increase their work in all areas. The needs of these people are very real and Besom money givers make a great deal of difference helping the Karen to build their own future.

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You’ve got to have hope

Hope is much more than wishful thinking. Hope, in its truest sense is more than that, much more. Hope is a certainty that a particular thing will happen, even if the odds on it happening are quite low. Because of our past experience we just have confidence that it will. According to M a s l ow ’s Hierarchy of Needs we all have a few c o m m o n biological and physiological n e e d s . Amongst others, at the most basic level, they are s h e l t e r , warmth, sleep, food and water. It seems impossible to believe that in the fourth most affluent country in the world today there are people who are without those most basic needs. In our daily work with Besom we encounter people who, often through no fault of their own, are being denied their most basic needs. Take shelter for instance, whilst it is the local authority’s responsibility to provide shelter for anyone who is homeless this often leaves a lot to be desired. People who have become homeless are often offered accommodation in the areas of the city in which no one else wants to live and often in a property in a poor state of repair and decoration. Having said that, there are sections of society for whom that right of shelter is denied because they do not officially exist. Sheffield, where I live and work was the country’s first city of sanctuary and does some great work amongst asylum seekers and refugees but there is always more that can be done. According to Oxfam there are more than 150,000 f a i l e d a s y l u m seekers in the U.K. and most of them receive no support preferring to sleep rough or on a friend’s floor because that is all that is available to them. They may get food vouchers but often have to trade some of them for something other than food. Food is another basic need which is often denied people when they most need it. It seems impossible that in this day and age people should be denied access to food and yet we have seen a ten fold increase in the number of food hampers being asked for by social workers and midwives. Times indeed are getting hard for the most vulnerable members of our society and in my heart I know that it will only get worse. In Sheffield we often receive referrals for food on a Friday when there is a gap in people’s benefits and the whole family, including young children, have nothing to eat over the weekend and beyond.

Whilst we all have these basic needs, they are only a stop-gap. Ultimately no matter how much our basic needs are being met the greatest thing we need is hope - a certainty that things will get better. Hope does not come from our possessions or our jobs or anything other than just knowing that we are cared for even if that is from a stranger. Without hope we are just existing. To thrive and develop as human beings we need hope, a certainty that the future will be better than the present or the past. The image above is the logo of the Hope08 Campaign which encouraged churches to get out into their local community and clean up, decorate and generally improve their local environment. What those people from local churches brought into their community was more than just a cleaner playground or tidier hedges but the thing that all those events brought to the community was hope—a hope of a better future. I learned a new word the other day and that word is ‘entropy’. Entropy means that everything, if left to itself, will gradually decline into disorder. For example, an apple left out in the sun will rot and be blown away on the wind eventually to be no more. Imagine a metal tool left out in the garden. Eventually it will rust away and disappear. Left to themselves things decay and decline until they are no more. Life, for some people can be like that. If we don't constantly take care, then our lives can also slowly decline, until we ‘pull ourselves together’ often with the help of a loved one or a friend. Some people, because of their circumstances are not able to do that for themselves but what really lifts them is the kindness of a stranger.

The facing page contains stories of hope that have been brought to others by people freely sharing their time, skills, money and possessions with people in need at the point that they are most needed. Steve Winks - The Besom in Sheffield

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The Besom in York -

“Here at the Besom in York we are amazed at the number of Easter hampers we received. It was the first time people had given hampers at Easter, after 3 years of Christmas hampers. We have heard some great stories about people who received hampers. One of these was about a young man who is struggling with debt, and is trying hard to pay it off, to the point of not feeding himself properly. Therefore the gift of food was a great blessing and encouragement to him. What is more he tasted couscous for the first time and is now a keen couscous eater!”

The Besom in Sheffield -

“So far we have done three weekends at Zinnia's house with around five people going each time. We have finished the hall, stairs and landing and Bien's room. As the time has gone on Zinnia has opened up more and more and has expressed how grateful she was to choose her own colours for the walls as she didn't choose the paint for her bathroom and kitchen from the council. It has been a tough job physically and really challenging for members of our group too in terms of working in that environment. The longer we're there, the harder it can be to think that children sleep there and as a family, this is their environment. We have had really great conversations with Zinnia and her children. As we chatted with her, we realised how lacking in hope she is for her and her family's future and house. We have been praying that the work we do will motivate her so that she has some sense of pride and hope that she can change her environment. We are just beginning to see this happen. It has helped separating each room into a different project and letting her know when we'll be doing it so she has time to begin to clear each room, then we can help finish off with her if she needs help. Her boyfriend helped with the stairs which was great.

We have given Zinnia and Mosaic a couple of weeks off so that we don't burn out and she can have some lie-ins! We are slowly getting to know the children and Zinnia and know that we'll be doing stuff for a while. Prayers have definitely been answered day by day, particularly for grace and emotional and physical strength to do a good job. We have seen a significant change in how much Zinnia smiles and the attitudes and love that people in Mosaic have for Zinnia's family and others in the same situation. Looking forward to seeing what happens next and her house is looking so much better already”. Rachel.

The Besom in the Wirral -

“Some months ago now five of us from the Besom in Wirral went out to do a time giving referral. I had been contacted by a social worker about a young woman with three children who suffers from a serious case of obsessive/compulsive disorder which tragically manifests itself in an inability to get rid of rubbish and a desire to pick through her household waste in case something precious has been thrown away. The children had been placed on the Child Protection Register because of the severity of the home conditions and were about to be removed. I had agreed to take Besom in for a single hit visit to see if we could help. After an initial visit with the social worker though, I explored the possibility of involving the environmental health people because things were desperate and the whole house had been invaded by fruit flies due to all the rotting food. It became clear though, that that would only cause more problems so I took a deep breath and agreed that we would go in a few day’s time. Social services very helpfully booked a skip - essential really because at that time we had no van.

So it was that the five of us spent the morning with Paula, picking through her rubbish to make sure nothing precious was being lost, reassuring her and becoming friends. Part of the team tackled the worst kitchen I have ever seen (and I have seen many), and others were brave enough to clear the yard. We felt God's protection on us because amazingly nothing crawled or wriggled out! One of our team even sang and entertained the baby in his pushchair! And so the morning went on - someone slipped out and came back with a bunch of flowers and a vase purchased from the charity shop. She could have done nothing more special for Paula - her smile at that point was one to treasure no-one had ever shown her that kind of care before.

Five hours later the transformation of that house was remarkable - the social worker visiting the next day said she never imagined in her wildest dreams that it could look so good. I am full of praise for the team - they worked so hard in unimaginable conditions (the house was pristine when we left) and above all they offered the hand of friendship Paula still has her disorder but the social worker said she sensed a real desire for change now and a willingness to get some help. We don't know what the final outcome will be but all in all it was a great day! We left with an abiding sense that in that place, on that day, we were able to bring a little hope into Paula's life.”

The Besom in Sheffield -

“A family needed a gate erecting so that their little boy could play in the garden without the parents worrying about him running into the road. At the same time someone gave us a donation especially for that sort of project. On Wednesday we erected the two posts and on Friday another team went and erected the gate. The weather was amazing and a good time was had by all. We also have some outdoor play equipment that we will be able to give them as well. Brilliant”!

“I just wanted to thank you. I received a phone call tonight from Sarah, who I had earlier referred to Besom for support with some gardening work. She said that yesterday two people from Besom came round to her home with a huge hamper of food and treats for her and the kids. She was really pleasantly surprised and absolutely amazed at how generous it was! I am sure it will be a huge blessing for her and her family over Christmas as I know that she is struggling to manage with the expense of the season. So thank you again”.

The Besom in Manchester -

“Besom can be hard work and organising people to do the work can take a lot of effort in a busy church. Decorating work often requires skills which not everyone has and so some projects need the support of those who have specific abilities to do difficult jobs like hanging ceiling paper!

David, a project assessor in Manchester, is one who has the faith and will to spend some of his time in retirement ensuring that projects that are requested can actually happen. It takes work behind the scenes to mobilise groups within his church to come together and do the job.

One of David’s Besom projects has resulted in a happy story for Jean, a lady whose ongoing contact following a Besom decorating project has given her friendships that she would otherwise not have had. She was recently able to visit Southport for the first time in ten years and go to the Circus! God has been working in that situation to change a hopeless situation but not without Besom givers “going the extra mile” and taking her on weekly shopping trips which go far beyond the mandate of the original project.” Dennis Hardy - A time giver from Ivy Manchester

The Besom in York -

“Yesterday morning we went over to a giver's house in the van to receive a bed and a wardrobe on behalf of a recipient that we've worked with and befriended. It was great, he gave us the stuff and then we sat down with him to drink some Greek coffee whilst listening to classical music and discussing art, life and philosophy. What a great way to start the day. Then we took the stuff over to the recipient's house and made plans to visit her soon for a cuppa! Both the giver and the recipient were a joy to spend time with and they live really close to us so we look forward to being in their lives a wee bit more.

We have been fortunate enough to make friends with our neighbours and the neighbourhood kids through a Besom project we did in February. We painted and decorated two of the children's bedrooms and since then we've been accepted into the close knit community! The children are over most days, they come to bake, cook, do some art and drawing, paint, garden... Whatever it is that we are doing they want to do, they just want to help and to do things with us. Sometimes we play football, go to the park, play games outside... The other day we felt like a day care facility because all the parents came over to pick up their kids for dinner - love it! We're also getting to know the parents and the elderly on the street, the couple next door have actually asked us to look after their house while they're away and a lady who's expecting her fourth child soon has asked one of us to be part of her support network for when the baby comes! People trust us and it's amazing, it's all down to God. He's answered our prayers to be protected whilst we work with the kids and it's as if he's gone before us to soften the heart of the community towards us! It's great to know your neighbours and to have such a relationship with them that they're in and out of your house and we can be in and out of theirs and we all lend each other stuff when we need it! The already existing community has taught me so much about community!” Angharad Rhys – YWAM York Team Leader

The Besom in East Belfast -

“I have worked for Belfast Trust for a number of years, and during this time I have used ‘Besom’ on several occasions. I have found it to be an extremely valuable resource with pleasant and helpful staff providing practical support and often going the extra mile to assist service users of varying age groups and needs.” Paul. “Besom was approached by Social Services to help Mary. When we visited the house we could see that Mary wasn’t coping. Social services wanted us to help get the house ready for a home help to come in on a regular basis. Having drawn up a programme we then set about cleaning rooms for Mary. Other people took away washing to do. At all times we kept the Social Services informed of progress.” (All recipient names changed on this page)

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TALKING ISSUES There was a time in the 15th century (when the word was first coined), when a compromise was always a good thing: two people in dispute agreed to abide by the decision of a third party. By the 16th century, the usual form of a compromise involved each person leaving their original position and finding common ground in the middle. This is of course right in many circumstances; but, as Lord Edward Cecil wrote, it can involve ‘an agreement between two men to do what both agree is wrong’. An example today might be the Coalition government in England for which not a single vote was cast at the ballot box. By the 17th century, the word had taken on an altogether different meaning: by then, to be compromised was to ‘put oneself in peril, or to expose oneself to risk or suspicion’ (Shorter Oxford). So we are compromised when we look for a compromise where none exists. Between right and wrong, say, or good and evil or truth and falsehood. It was Gandhi who said, ‘there can be no give and take on fundamentals’. Yet it is particularly the British way to try to find the middle ground and ‘uncompromising’ is such an ugly word. It is time to reclaim it in the name of integrity. Increasingly, we have compromised in many areas of our lives in this nation where we should not have done and are compromised.

– ‘‘Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions’ – G.K.Chesterton.

our families by generalised legislation handed down from distant and Olympian eyries. The answer is not a new world government as the Vatican is now suggesting – Heaven forfend! Nor is it another discussion about ethics with more regulations. As if more laws will have any effect.

We have allowed companies that, by definition, do not care for us or for our families, to take over the destinies of far too many of us – even though they look at us only as consumers and employees (see newsletter 34). Most of us make up just a tiny, and irrelevant, part of one of the lines in their profit and loss account. We are profoundly mistaken if we believe that large companies are, or can be, run for the common good. We have allowed our politicians to let these companies grow as much as they like, to permit them to do almost anything they like around the world and to encourage them to pay their suppliers and their employees just a tiny part of what should be the fruit of our labour. We have let them change our way of life out of all recognition in just a few years. With their disproportionately large marketing budgets and their public relations departments, they have successfully deceived most of us into believing that they are vital to our wellbeing. They are Once again I write at a time when we face not. We do not need most of what they sell huge global economic turmoil as us. What we do need can mostly be bought European countries fight to save their locally – and should be. domestic banks and prevent the contagion spreading; as America fails to deal with its Those who repeat the mantra that only economic deficit; and as China is about to recognise growth can save us have forgotten that growth can the irreversible social penalties for its one be malignant. The two main characteristics child per family policy, its mass migrations of cancer are uncontrolled growth of the and its too rapid industrialisation. Once malignant cells in the human body and the again the poor are getting poorer and the ability of these cells to migrate from the rich richer. Once again I am sure that original site and spread to distant sites those who claim to speak in our name in (Wikipedia). What have we done? What England and Brussels, let alone at the UN, have we allowed? It started here. We need will fail to recognise that the existing to look at causes not symptoms. system of laissez-faire capitalism is Furthermore, any organisation where those at irredeemably flawed. the top do not know the names of those at the Apart from guaranteeing depositors up to bottom, and their wives’ and children’s names, and an agreed amount – say, £75,000 – the where they live, is almost without exception too banks in the West should have been large. In addition, most companies where allowed to fail three years ago. They should those at the top believe that they are worth be allowed to fail this time. The money more than a few times those at the bottom otherwise used to prop them up should go, (or the national average) are being led by if at all, into new banks that serve the local people who are either immoral or too community. If this does not occur, those arrogant to be allowed to lead. who invested in the banks’ shares will not bear the economic and moral They hang the man, and flog the consequences of the risks they took: they woman, That steals the goose from invested in very highly-geared off the common; But let the greater organisations that lent too much money to villain loose, That steals the the wrong people because bonuses were common from the goose. - anonymous, largely paid out to individuals on short- 17th century. term results. The same must surely apply to nations. If they cannot repay their debts, We have compromised our most basic they must declare default – and those who social values because we wanted the lent to them must bear the consequences. wellbeing these companies and their And quantitative easing, or the mere sycophants claimed to offer – at the printing of more money, is not the answer expense of others to whom too often we to the UK deficit. As Keynes himself said, turn a blind eye. We pretend we can live ‘There is no subtler, no surer, way of and let live and we choose to ignore the overturning the existing basis of society 30,000 children who die every day around the world of starvation and malnutritionthan to debauch the currency’. related diseases. We are more than Once again (see newsletter 38), I invoke compromised. the spirit of the Luddites to urge a reappraisal of the centralisation of political Yet this time of turmoil is such a good and economic power: from the large opportunity to decentralize. It is simple corporations which have ruined our local truth that large numbers of small is better communities in the name of profit and so- than small numbers of large. This applies called economies of scale; to those to just about all forms of organisation political leaders across the globe who, to (except for families). the extent they are not corrupt, which is rare, believe they can bring well-being to Our focus for over 12 years at FACE to


If you would like to discuss giving things, skills or time please log on to and click on ‘Local Besoms’ to find the nearest Besom to you. If you would like to discuss giving

money please call: 020 7223 0119

Face, both in London and at the farm, has been to seek another way, where familyscale businesses create livelihoods and trade with each other and where cooperation and mutuality are the order of the day. Better, surely, to choose this way now than to find it thrust upon us (as well it may be) without choice as corporations, banks and nations go to the wall (and we revert to barter as the Russians did so successfully in 1998). This alternative way of doing economic activity, with the priority on the small is very simple – but it is largely invisible so is profoundly unattractive to those who seek great wealth or power or significance. It builds strong communities that can weather economic storms. There is a time in the Bible when we shall beat our swords (at last!) into ploughshares. At that time, so we learn, everyone will sit under their own vine, their own fig-tree, and no one will make them afraid.

Intolerance is also perceived invariably to be wrong these days – we do not like the language of inflexibility and absolutism that it so often engenders - and it has a long and dismal history of imposed opinions and suffering. And yet, it too needs to be rehabilitated as a neutral word which can be right or wrong. We have watched too much, allowed too much, stayed silent too many times, been complicit too often in injustice. We have done so in the name of tolerance – again, how gentle and attractive that word sounds! But to be, say, wheat intolerant is merely to state a fact and we need to stand up and say that we are greed intolerant, injustice intolerant, unfairness intolerant. The confused cries from the steps of St Paul’s and elsewhere are just the latest expression of this rightfully intolerant mood, even if neither those inside nor outside the Church seem to know how to approach the issues of debt and greed. Yet who decides what is right and wrong intolerance? There is no longer an external Arbiter in public life, so it seems to be either the politicians (who have largely lost a collective sense of right and wrong), or the media (driven by a most wrongfully intolerant form of liberalism). Who guards the guards, as Juvenal asked? It was Samuel Taylor Coleridge who said: ‘I have seen great [wrongful] intolerance shown in support of tolerance’.

There is a superiority amongst those who believe that they are right to be tolerant in our nation at present that is almost unbounded; it certainly has little or no moral underpinning. The tyrannical nature of the form of democracy as practised in this country is equally oppressive. Freedom is a close companion of integrity – it is hard to find either as one looks at our society: if I am not of those who believe in universal tolerance and compromise I find I am increasingly likely to be criminalized.

Where are those in this nation who will stand up for what we all know deep in our hearts to be right and who will bear the cost of doing so? Tolerance and compromise often hide behind apathy, indifference and selfishness. Step forward the uncompromising and intolerant truth tellers! James Odgers Founder The Besom and FACE to Face November 2011

The Besom is a Christian charity. This newsletter has been printed with funds given especially for that purpose Registered charity no. 1104026

A big thank you to all who have given money, time, skills or things


Since the last newsletter in March 2011, those giving money through The Besom have provided funds for the purchase of…

Windows, door fixtures and fittings for a school building, Sierra Leone Building materials for a youth centre, Tanzania Furnishings and income generating agricultural equipment for a children’s project, Ghana A freezer, solar water heaters, washing machine and store room extension for a health project, South Africa Toilets for a leprosy project, India A cooker and a microwave for a youth project, London Classroom equipment, tables and chairs for an education project, India Materials to refurbish a community centre, India Building materials for a crèche at a community project, South Africa Water tank and guttering for a children’s home, Uganda Tree nursery to assist rural farmers, Haiti Carpets for project offering supported housing for people with mental health problems, Witney Carpentry workshop equipment for education project, South Africa Building materials and equipment to build a kitchen at a school, Southern Sudan Building materials for the construction of a multi-purpose community hall, Kenya Washing machine, cooker, tumble dryer and carpets for house for vulnerable women, London Equipment for sensory room at hospice for children, Romania Equipment to refurbish van used for street work with prostitutes, Liverpool Furniture for a women’s hostel, London Furniture and equipment for project working with vulnerable women, London Furniture for move-on home for men coming out of prison who have been through a rehabilitation programme, London Materials to repair three water systems for remote tribe, Thailand Cooker, extractor fan, fridge and furniture for community project, London Roof tiles, doors, window frames and furniture for school, India Metal door frames for condominium building, Ethiopia Building repairs and bunk beds for project working with vulnerable women, Mozambique

43 - The National Besom Newsletter  

The National Besom newsletter which looks at stories from around the entier Besom network.

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