The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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April 2018

Practical Action

Anne Stevens

Alongside our Children’s church project to twin our toilets, Hampstead Parish Church’s contribution to Practical Action, one of the overseas charities supported by the parish, is helping with another aspect of sanitation. “Now wash your hands”. We all know we should, but a research project revealed how many people in this country don’t. We don’t even have the excuse that doing so is difficult. If soap were not available and the only water a good distance from the loo, and costly at that, we really might not bother. But, in crowded and often unhygienic settlements, not doing so, especially when children are young – and I have vivid memories of just how much handwashing was involved when my children and grandchildren were little – can lead to recurrent diarrhoea which at worst causes death and at best results in malnutrition and stunted growth. Our daughter Lucy, who works for Practical Action, has been in Kenya this year. There she learnt how Practical Action are building on earlier work in Nakuru to develop a “Safe Pair of Hands” programme in the informal settlements of Kisumu. With match funding from the UK government they are aiming to assist 2,750 families to construct hand-washing stations in their homes, to facilitate local artisans and small enterprises to manufacture and/or market hand-washing stations and soap, and to work with the water company to improve the supply and management of clean water.

Lucy has also told us about Practical Action’s work in Nepal. Her pictures from a visit a little while ago are fascinating. In that very mountainous country Practical Action have been helping local villages to install gravity operated goods ropeways to enable heavy produce to be transported up and down the mountains, halving the time and effort involved in getting goods to market. In these very remote areas this means more time to cultivate the crops, less risk of injury to the people who would otherwise carry the goods, and hence a better income. I’ve put some information about this on the table at the back of church.

One final note: overseas charities have had a very bad press recently. People rushed out to cope with humanitarian crises, away from home and family and in stressed circumstances, have sometimes been behaving inexcusably badly. Practical Action is not a humanitarian charity of that kind, even if it does try to encourage resilience in the face of climate change and natural disaster. That, for example, is why the goods ropeways are built to be flood- and earthquake- proof (up to Richter scale 7). Their staff in their overseas offices are all local, and there has been no allegation or suspicion of exploitation or abuse.  Practical Action’s simple, effective work can make a real difference.  It is very good that HPC can support them.   

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