Changing the world – one tin at a time

Aussie churches join new campaign to help refugees

Can a tin of beans change the world? Or a single tube of toothpaste shift the heart of a nation?

These questions are being asked by an ambitious new campaign called One Single Act of Compassion. The campaign aims to provide one year of supplies to refugee aid agencies across Australia by enlisting the support of churches and other community groups.

The idea seeks to “support the agencies that are stretched beyond capacity and make a statement of welcome to those seeking refuge in our nation.”

“As Christians we should be concerned about the least, the last and the left out,” says the creator of the campaign, Tara Conradt, who is Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in outer suburban Perth, Western Australia. She also is head of Community Engagement for Australia Christian Churches (ACC) WA.

“The resources in the church could really make a big difference in our nation if we could actually be united and put that to good use.”

“We are changing the conversation … nationally.” – Tara Conradt

The idea for the campaign stemmed from discussions among ACC leaders about the church’s response to refugees, as well as conversations with a WA refugee aid agency (Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees – CARAD) about its struggle to supply basic items.

While Conradt admits this year’s campaign is being “done on the fly,” she couldn’t ignore the immediate need.

“We are just hoping to get as many churches on board as possible, across the spectrum, to start changing the conversation in our churches for those who are in need … those who are without legal right or status, particularly refugee groups.”

So far, more than 20 churches from seven denominations (including Anglican, Presbyterian, ACC, Hillsong, Baptist and Churches of Christ) have signed up across WA, NSW, South Australia and Victoria. However, the number of churches grows to about 50 if you include their different campuses.

Churches and other community groups that join the campaign during October commit to collecting as many of one item as possible from a list of much-needed items, created in consultation with refugee aid agencies.

“These are particularly things that are harder to come by through donations. Things like cooking oil or nappies or washing powder, just basic needs for day-to-day living,” explains Conradt.

“We are showing that the gospel is good news for everyone.” – Tara Conradt

Tara Conradt, Cornerstone's Lead Pastor

Tara Conradt, creator of One Single Act of Compassion

The next step is to encourage others in the local community to donate the selected item at a central collection point during November. Conradt sees this a key outreach opportunity for churches, as they connect with local businesses, schools, sporting clubs and other organisations. She is even encouraging local churches to contact community groups that register to coordinate their own collection. And she is hoping churches will also take up the opportunity to teach relevant Bible messages on “welcoming the stranger” in services and small groups during the campaign period (with teaching resources being made available on the One Single Act of Compassion website soon).

The campaign culminates at midday on November 25 (dubbed One Single Act Sunday), when every church or group will collect all donations of their item, and promote this by taking photos and posting on social media.

“It will be a national contribution – one single action where the church makes a donation to those [refugee aid agencies],” says Conradt.

She sees this as a key way to not only express love to refugees but also to shift perceptions about the church in Australian society.

“We are changing the conversation … nationally that the church is only about the church. We are showing that the gospel is good news for everyone.”

“Refugees are just people like us.”  – Tara Conradt

After One Single Act Sunday, the goods will be delivered to one of the partnering aid agencies, including CARAD in WA and Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Victoria (while an agency for NSW is still being confirmed).

In addition to donating items, Conradt is also asking for monetary donations to help cover the costs of storage, transport and administration, and to enable the campaign expand next year.

“We’d love it to not just change the story for those who are facing hardship right now but, ultimately, to change the story at a deeper level.”

Essentially, the outcome she is hoping to achieve is to change Australia’s attitude towards refugees.

“The message we’re really sharing is about meeting the basic needs of those who are in our communities … Refugees are just people like us – they have the same needs as us and want the same things for their kids.”