Christian Aid Week 2018 launches today with a 24-hour sleep out in Belfast city centre to remember the millions of people worldwide who have been forced from home by conflict and natural disaster. The charity’s annual red envelope house-to-house collection will take place this week across Northern Ireland, with the appeal running from Sunday 13th to Saturday 19th May.
Christian Aid Ireland and its supporters will sleep out in Buoy Park, Belfast city centre from 12pm today (Friday 11th May) to 12pm tomorrow (Saturday 12th May) to remember the millions of people who have been unrooted in their own countries because of violence, war or natural disasters.
Today, more than 40 million people have been forced to flee by conflict, accounting for approximately two thirds of those who have had to abandon their homes. A further 24 million were forced to flee by disasters in 2016 alone. Yet, because they haven’t crossed a border, the public rarely hears about them.
Launching Christian Aid Week, Chief Executive Rosamond Bennett said: “Vast numbers of people have fled to other parts of their home countries to escape violence or disasters. They leave in fear for their lives, not knowing what lies ahead. They are frightened, traumatised and have lost all of their possessions.
“Yet, despite the huge number of people affected, as they haven’t crossed a border, these people are forgotten, receiving almost no political attention, funding or support. They are among the most vulnerable to poverty and exploitation in the world.”
This year’s Christian Aid Week focuses on Haiti, where thousands of people regularly experience some of the worst natural disasters on earth. The country is one of the poorest in the world, and a high number of its inhabitants live in precarious houses or have been unrooted from their homes entirely, placing them at great risk when another disaster strikes.
More than seven years on from the devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince in 2010, an estimated 38,000 people are still uprooted from their homes. And in November 2016, Hurricane Matthew wreaked yet more havoc across the southern coast of the country, killing 546 people and destroying homes, businesses and infrastructure.
Ahead of Hurricane Matthew, Christian Aid and its Haitian partner, were able to warn people, helping to evacuate 5,000 families and saving many lives. In the immediate aftermath the organisation supported urgently-needed shelter materials, hygiene products such as soap, food, seeds and emergency funds, so people could buy items that they desperately needed. Disaster-resistant homes were built, giving people safe, secure places to live.
Rosamond Bennett said: “Christian Aid Ireland supporters are sleeping-out in tents tonight in solidarity with people who spend every night in poor, precarious conditions. We’re asking people across Northern Ireland to stand together with us, to help people who have lost their homes through war and disasters.
“We’re incredibly grateful to the committed people sleeping out tonight for raising their voices, and for the goodwill of our supporters, including churches, communities and volunteers, each Christian Aid Week. Their tremendous support through our red envelope collection, Big Brekkies and coffee mornings will raise vital funds for life-changing work with people who are trying to rebuild their lives.”
Today’s sleep-out will be attended by local politicians and the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister. Members of the public are invited to visit and take part.
Over the next week, house-to-house collections will take place across Northern Ireland and fundraising events will take place in the Republic of Ireland. To help to change lives this Christian Aid Week, support a local house-to-house collection through a Christian Aid red envelope, donate online at caweek.ie or call 028 90 648133 (Northern Ireland) or 01 4967040 (Republic of Ireland).
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