After fundraising and campaigning to end poverty for almost 30 years, Jean Thompson has pledged a gift in her Will to Christian Aid.
Jean Thompson from Bangor, County Down has been a Christian Aid supporter since 1994. She makes a monthly donation by direct debit as well as ad hoc donations in response to emergency appeals.
Since retiring from her role as a clerical officer in a residential home, Jean has had more time to devote to her unpaid work as the Christian Aid organiser at First Bangor Presbyterian Church. Each May during Christian Aid Week, she carries out a house-to-house collection in the town, and after church on Sundays she has held coffee mornings and Traidcraft stalls to raise funds for the charity’s work. She is supported by many friends in her church but makes special mention of Maisie Burton.
Why does she do it?
Besides her financial support and her fundraising, Jean is also an activist, amplifying Christian Aid’s campaign messages on debt, climate change, taxation and fair trade.
In 2007, Jean and Andy took part in a Christian Aid march in London, calling on the UK government to introduce a Climate Change Act to cut the UK’s carbon emissions - legislation that was introduced the following year.
Closer to home, she joins in local campaigns, building public support for debt cancellation, fair trade and tax justice - tax policies that don’t rob the poorest countries of much-needed revenue. She recalls one action in particular:
The Body of Chains artwork formed part of the Jubilee 2000 campaign which successfully lobbied for billions of dollars of debt cancellation. But debt cancellation wasn’t the only change that Jean helped to bring about. She was part of the movement that brought fair trade products into the mainstream:
“This was back when the supermarkets weren’t stocking fair trade produce. We collected till receipts from members of our church and used a highlighter pen to draw attention to all the items that could be fair trade – like bananas, chocolate, tea, coffee and sugar. We met the supermarket managers, showed them the receipts and asked them to stock fair trade versions.”
What motivates her?
“Because of my Christian faith but also because I want to help people in need.”
Two years ago, Jean decided to leave a gift in her Will to Christian Aid. What prompted her decision?
“I always attend the Christian Aid supporter conferences and last year, one of the staff asked us to consider leaving a gift in our Will so I decided to do it. It was very straightforward.”
Jean wrote her Will during Will Aid Month in November 2019. Now in its 11th year, participating solicitors waive their fee for writing a basic Will in lieu of a donation to charity. Christian Aid is among nine well-known charities to benefit.
Jean has lived in Bangor since marrying Andy in 1968 but she grew up in Ballymena with her brother Ernest McKeown who still lives in the town. She describes her childhood as ‘normal and happy’. Jean was GB captain at Wellington Street Presbyterian Church and Ernest was BB captain.
Jean became GB captain at First Bangor soon after her move there. She and Andy have two sons - Peter lives in Michigan in the United States and Victor lives in London. What do her sons think about her decision to leave a gift in her Will to Christian Aid?
“They don’t know yet. They’ll find out when they read this”, she laughs. “But they don’t need to worry – they will be looked after.”
The greatest challenge of Jean’s life came in 2011 when doctors discovered stage 4 cancer in her left leg. The surgeon warned her that he would have to remove one third of her leg muscle and that she might never walk again. But she’s thankful that she made a good recovery and that the worst didn’t come to pass. Within a few months, she was back on the fundraising trail:
“By the following May, I was able to carry out the house-to-house collection for Christian Aid. I’m very grateful. The power of prayer brought me through.”
Jean concludes with this simple reflection on her life so far:
“I’m a happy person. We have a happy marriage and a happy home life. I have no regrets.”
If you would like information or have any queries, please contact Sarah Leeman by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more at our 'Gifts in Wills' portal.