Community activist Hayley Teague shares how she was inspired to help her community, and the dramatic life changes she made to make a difference in her local area.
The town where I live Mitcham, South London, has a bad reputation. We’ve had shootings, stabbings as well as high unemployment and low educational attainment. No one deliberately comes to Mitcham; they pass through, and even when they pass through they complain about it! I often hear people say, “Mitcham, it’s not what it used to be, it’s going to the dogs.” Most people believe that to do well for themselves they need to move out as quickly as possible. Not me. I choose to live here and my response to those who complain about Mitcham (especially to those who live here) is, “well what are you doing about it? Be part of the solution NOT the problem.”
About 8 years ago, when I working in information technology, I visited a Christian friend of mine who was working in an AIDS orphanage in South Africa. I met the children, heard their stories and came back changed. So much so that when on the receiving end of abuse about a printer that didn’t work, I recall thinking, “I don’t care about your stupid printer, there’s kids dying in Africa!” There were kids dying in the UK too; feelings of hopelessness among our youth was rising along with youth crime. During an IT job at a youth court, I felt called to work with this group of young people. I gave up my well paid IT career to become a student and obtained a youth work and ministry degree (around the same time, I became a devout Christian). I then began to work with young offenders. The need is great, in 2007 a Unicef report ranked the UK as one of the worst in industrialised countries to bring up children[i].
Several years on, I am now working with a Christian charity in the Community Mission team[ii], equipping churches and Christians to transform their communities in the most deprived areas in the UK. Empowering them to live out the good news of the gospel in practical ways. In my spare time I’m a HopeUK[iii] drug and alcohol awareness educator, an appropriate adult[iv] at the police station for young people and a street pastor[v] – all in my local community. On Christmas Day, I helped out at a church’s Christmas meal for the elderly, those suffering with mental health problems and the homeless , 60 people in all.
Why would I give my time on Christmas day to serve people?
Jesus said ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’[vi] I give my time because I am a Christian and Jesus said to whom much is given, much is expected.[vii] I give because I want to follow Jesus’ example; he did not come to be served, but to serve others.[viii]
In the Old Testament the people of Israel were oppressed and badly treated and God told Moses that he has seen the oppression of his people, he heard their cries, was aware of their suffering and had seen how harshly they had been treated. Then God said “And now Moses I send you!” I send you to make a difference.[ix]
I believe God sees the state of our world, the UK and the little town of Mitcham and is saying to me, “I send you to make a difference.”
Why do I give? I give because I believe I can be a little part of the solution.
Two little boys were walking along the beach and they came across hundreds of starfish washed up on the beach. One of the boys picked up a starfish and threw it back in the sea, then pick up another and proceeded to do the same, as he pick up another the other boy struck by the futility of the task said, “You’re crazy what are you doing, you can’t possibly think you can make a difference.” The first boy threw the starfish he had in his hand and replied, “I made a difference to that one.”[x]
[i] Unicef Report http://www.unicef.org.uk/press/news_detail.asp?news_id=890
[vi] Mathew 25:35-40
[vii] Luke 12:48
[viii] Matthew 20:28
[ix] Exodus 3:7-10