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Introducing our Five Year Appeal

I recently visited an old workhouse in Southwell, Nottinghamshire that had been restored by the National Trust. I had heard of workhouses before but didn’t really know much about them. While there, I learned that workhouses were a mainstay of a social welfare system for the ‘destitute’ that uneasily combined care and deterrence. Back in the 1800s, the prevailing view was that that people were poor, unemployed, disabled, mentally ill or orphaned because of their own negligence or laziness and could be ‘reformed’ by hard work and instruction. Even deserted wives and their children were deemed ‘morally defective’ and objects of stigma and correction rather than support. As I left the bleak building, I wondered how anyone ever thought it a good idea to put disadvantaged people into institutions where they were deprived of dignity and love. But I also felt incredibly fortunate, as this history lesson had included some parting displays showing how society has prospered and the social support provided by government and voluntary organisations has changed beyond recognition.

The level of poverty experienced by the Victorian poor is still commonplace for millions of people in Africa today. And the people once interned in workhouses are the same people, albeit in another continent and time, reached by Advantage Africa. People who are poor, but also stigmatised because of disability, HIV/AIDS, bereavement or marital breakdown. The reality in Africa is that disabled people are routinely excluded from school, jobs and community life; orphans frequently lack adequate nutrition or healthcare; bereaved men and women face fear and suspicion about AIDS; widows are often robbed of their home, land and possessions by their inlaws and left with no means of caring for their children.

Advantage Africa was founded in 2002 to support the work of inspirational people who are determined to overcome this poverty, vulnerability and stigma. In the appeal that accompanies this newsletter, we celebrate some of their achievements over the last five years and share with you the challenge before us of sustaining and building on them.

By the end of 2007, we urgently need at least fifty people to commit to supporting our work with a regular monthly donation so that we can continue to help change the lives of people like David, Patrick, Evelyn and Ella described in our appeal. Please take a few minutes to read their stories, and consider whether you can support Advantage Africa in this way.

Thank you for being part of our partnership of inspirational people making a difference.

Andrew Betts, Director

P.S. If you would like some more copies of the appeal for your friends and family, please call Teleri on 01234 711005.

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