Christian World Service

Christian World Service (CWS) connects New Zealanders to a network of community-based changemakers around the world. Their partners address the causes of poverty and advocate for outcomes that challenge injustice and inequality. CWS shares their concerns with New Zealanders and encourage them to join them in advocating for climate justice, respect for human rights and self determination, and an end to violence and poverty.

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Rather than place overseas staff, CWS works in trust of the wisdom of the local community to know what is needed and how best to respond. This is a key aspect of the ‘localisation’ model the development/humanitarian sector is working toward, and the following story from CWS is a true study in respecting and empowering community partners – especially in times of crisis.

 

Until Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, Developers Foundation - one of CWS’s partners based on Philippine’s Aklan coast - was all but self-sufficient. With Haiyan, they lost everything, as did the communities they worked with – 94-98% of homes were damaged or destroyed. As the Developers Foundation drew on their local knowledge and networks identify how best to help, CWS responded with a bulwark of practical assistance: first, roofing materials, followed by funding for large-scale tree and root crop planting drives, as well as establishing a local market which has lowered costs and improved incomes for the affected communities. 

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Developers are working closely alongside local government on disaster preparedness, running regular training events to minimise the impact of major weather events. The latest effort here is an intensive mangrove planting drive: with their tight and extensive root systems, mangroves create a buffer against the tidal surges and strong winds that are increasingly common. More mangroves will increase habitat for declining fish populations. CWS is encouraging New Zealanders to buy mangroves as an option offset the carbon effect of their travel and help people on the frontline of climate change.

 

But damage from storms like Haiyan is not only physical, environmental – it is also social and economic. Developers are exploring ways to improve family incomes (already low before Haiyan), and CWS is right there with them, helping to explore potential new income streams. Current market research is pointing to small-scale banana chip production – keep an eye out for developments in this front in the near future! 

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CWS began in 1945 when the National Council of Churches launched an appeal to assist war-torn Greece. CWS soon moved to a development focus and was an early promoter of development education and advocacy work. CWS is part of ACT Alliance (Action by Churches Together), a global network mobilising around $1.5 billion annually for development, humanitarian aid and advocacy. Find out more on their website.