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A block drawing of a church

22 September 2018: Hand in HandA rectangular white-on-blue plaque reading "Mogonjet Community Dispensary - Donated by Hand in Hand (UK) through Grace Foundation International - Opened on 2nd Feb 2011"

This evening my wife and I went to an evangelical church in a nearby village for the 20th anniversary of the Christian charity Hand in Hand. As we were getting ready I did wonder whether or not to put the winter lining back in my raincoat. I discovered I had never taken it out. I guess I can’t have worn it at all in summer, which just shows how dry it was.

Hand in Hand works in partnership with organisations overseas who are supporting projects for deprived children and young adults. Initially its work was in South America. The organisations there are now self-supporting and the charity’s main focus in now on projects in Kenya and Uganda. Earlier this year my wife and I were members of group of just six who went to Kenya to visit the projects there. That’s when I took the photograph of the plaque on the Community Dispensary in a small village called Mogonjet. Hand in Hand supports the primary and secondary schools there and, as you can see, paid for the adjoining dispensary.

To start the evening one of the trustees briefly ran through some of the charity’s statistics. Over twenty years it has had a total of 29 trustees and employees. It has helped many children and young people and paid for 150 to undergo training as young adults.

We were then entertained by a gospel choir, who sang four songs and tried to get us to copy their movements for two of them. Tried is the operative word; very few actually did join in.

There was then a series of short talks by trustees and former trustees, including the person who had founded the charity twenty years ago. He emphasised that God works through people and that we must be ready to follow His call and fill the needs of which He makes us aware. That can mean stepping out beyond our own comfort zones.

We were shown some clips recorded by staff and current and former children at the New Hope Children’s Centre in Uplands, Kenya, which Hand in Hand supports. They all expressed their appreciation of the help Hand in Hand gives. We also listened to a recorded message from someone who was unable to attend, saying how much he admired the work Hand in Hand does.

After four hymns led by a band, we were addressed by Hand in Hand’s chairman, Grant Smith, who told us about a commercial project he and a business partner have established in Kenya. The original intention was to set up a business which would provide employment for the less skilled at more than the minimum wage. After completing a residential development it was approached by an NGO in Kenya who wanted to find a developer for the property in Nairobi who would not rip them off. Grant’s partner came up with the innovative idea of developing the site with external finance and giving the NGO a stake in the completed project proportionate to the value they had put in (ie the land, which the NGO had purchased for the equivaloent of £4,000 in the 1960s and was now worth over £2 Million. This idea has been continued, most recently with the completion of a 16-storey office block for CMS-Africa. (My wife and I visited the building shortly before it was complete. It was very impressive even then.)

Grant’s point was that God can take our simple visions, such as providing employment at fair rates for those who might otherwise be unemployed, and turn them into something far bigger.