Once Upon A Time...
Now we’re normally pretty humble people (as you know) but we’re going to make an exception today because this Sunday Christian Aid Week, our annual fundraising event, turns 60, making it Britain’s longest running fundraising week of all time.
The weird thing is that Christian Aid Week (or CAW as it is affectionally know - making it sound like the noise a bird makes when it’s angry) actually predates Christian Aid by many years.
It’s confusing. You see the organisation now known as Christian Aid was originally called Christian Reconstruction in Europe when it all kicked off in 1945. We changed the name to the equally snappy Inter-Church Aid and Refugee Service in 1948.
In 1952 we changed it to this symbol - §
(we didn’t really but it would have been cool if we had done).
The final change came in 1964 when we became the Christian Aid you know and love today. But in a M. Night Shyamalan-style twist we were named after a fundraising event that we had started years earlier.
Janet Lacey, who was our director in 1957, decided to hold a “Christian Aid Week” to encourage public awareness of all the issues we worked on. It was a massive success with supporters in over 200 towns and villages taking part and raising over £26,000 for overseas development work.
Let’s be clear, TWENTY-SIX grand was some some serious change in the fifties - bearing in mind that a loaf of bread cost 4p at the time - it was the equivalent of a couple of trillion pounds (give or take the odd zero, I can’t do maths but you get the point).
Christian Aid Week was an astonishing win for us. It brought in a huge amount of unrestricted funding which we could immediately use where it was needed most around the world. More than that it was, and still is, the biggest single act of Christian witness ever seen in the UK. Year in, year out, our incredible supporters haul themselves out into the mid-May sunshine (or more likely, rain) and post red envelopes through their neighbours doors.
That red envelope is a symbol, it says that whatever money you have to spare can make a real and impactful difference in the world.
But it isn’t just a symbol - it’s also an actual envelope that you can put money into - which is kind of the point.
And it’s also why in 1964, when we decided to change our name that final time - we picked the phrase Christian Aid. The organisation was named after the event. Not the other way around.