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2007: A Year of Anniversaries

2007 marks Advantage Africa’s fifth year as a registered charity and more famously, the 200th anniversary of the ending of the transatlantic slave trade. Conscious of the bicentenary, we were excited to start the year by moving our office to the historic Buckinghamshire town of Olney, where the hymn writer and slave-trade abolitionist John Newton was curate from 1764 to 1780. Newton was himself enslaved and then a slave trader before becoming a minister and mentor to William Wilberforce, and his autobiographical, beloved hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ has touched millions of people around the world. During my recent trip to Kenya I heard it sung in churches and on mobile phone ringtones. In one small town I even spotted the ‘Amazing Grace Kinyozi’ (barber)!

Olney’s other famous son is Newton’s close friend the writer William Cowper, who championed the cause of Olney’s lacemakers kept in poverty by poor wages and unhealthy conditions - our office overlooks his house, now the Cowper and Newton Museum. After one meeting between the two friends at which they discussed the slave trade abolition movement, Cowper wrote a poem ‘Pity for poor Africans’ which was published in the Northampton Mercury. The poem begins like this:

I own I am shock'd at the purchase of slaves,
And fear those who buy them and sell them are knaves;
What I hear of their hardships, their tortures, and groans
Is almost enough to draw pity from stones.

I pity them greatly, but I must be mum,
For how could we do without sugar and rum?
Especially sugar, so needful we see?
What? give up our desserts, our coffee, and tea!

Cowper’s call for justice and equality in relationships with people in Africa still rings true today. Were he still walking the street below I hope that he would approve of Advantage Africa’s focus on genuine partnership with inspirational people and community groups in Africa.

In this issue, we provide a snapshot of what this partnership with inspirational people means in practice with pictures and brief news from some of the projects we are supporting in Kenya and Uganda. Through our recent training workshop and activities on World AIDS Day and World Disability Day, we are greatly encouraged that our partners in Africa are learning from and working with each other in order to advance their work among people affected by poverty, disability and HIV/AIDS.

Celebrating anniversaries and understanding our history is important, especially if it helps us to learn from the past and resolve to do better in the future. This is our vision for 2007 as we aim, with your support, to reach more disadvantaged people than ever before.

Andrew Betts, Director

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