Wow, what an amazing couple of days it has been weather-wise! Walking to the New Hope Christian Centre this evening was an absolute joy. With the sun out, a nice breeze, and barely a cloud in sight, I could have walked another two or three miles without complaint.
Arriving at kids’ club, I was told we were going to be doing a “focus group” with the kids. This meant sitting them in a circle and asking them some questions about how the club was and what they wanted to see done differently, while filming their answers. The filmed responses would then be sent to the government in the hopes of receiving a grant for Community Action Norwich. The grant would go towards improving community programs in Lakenham like the kids’ club. I wonder now if the questionnaires the kids filled out the other week had something to do with this grant as well, but I did not think then to ask. What I was thinking: “How in the world are we going to get these kids to sit and talk for five or ten minutes?”
It proved quite difficult to get the kids to sit and talk for five or ten minutes. Despite being promised biscuits at the end and being allowed to sit on bean bag chairs (which for some reason they love) there was still chaos when the questions were asked. Duane got through all the questions, and he hopefully got the footage he needed. However, at no point was only one person talking. Also, he got some very unhelpful, not-serious answers. I do not think suggestions like “make school two hours a day for three days a week” or “lets start a pyromaniac club and play with fire” were exactly what we were looking for.
Some interesting information did come out of the questions. For one, none of the kids do homework, despite being assigned it. Hearing this really makes one question the reliance on homework in these kinds of communities. In addition, it sheds light on the environment these kids are coming from. On a similar note, nearly every kid said they would spend all their time on Facebook were it not for the kids club. Whether these kids should be on Facebook is one thing, but its sad to think what little structure there is for them.
When the “focus group” finished, there was a snack and a game of manhunt.
After the kids left for the evening, I asked Duane about the grant the group was applying for. Apparently, the UK government must give a certain amount of revenue from the Lottery to community charities around the country. It is this money that Community Action Norwich is applying for. Duane said there is some controversy among the Christian community in the UK as to whether Christian organizations should apply for the funds. Since it comes from a morally questionable source, and draws money from poor communities disproportionally, money from the Lottery is seen by some to be unacceptable. However, Duane argued that as long as the money is going to come from these communities when many play in the Lottery, it should go back to them in some way. Community Action Norwich is one way to do that. In addition, he said some recent research found that almost all government funded projects in the UK involves some money obtained through the Lottery. If one does not accept money directly from the Lottery on moral grounds, one must, by extension, accept nothing from the government.
I agree with Duane’s arguments concerning the lottery issue, but am more skeptical about issues concerning Christian organizations receiving government financial assistance. If an organization takes government money, it arguably should not endorse specific religious views. I highly doubt anyone would disagree with anything that goes on at the kids’ club, as I’ve never seen any proselytizing. However, if a kid asked a spiritual question, or a similar opportunity arose, I wonder what would happen. If the group acted in an explicitly Christian manner, and was receiving government funding, I would expect and respect taxpayers with divergent views to be upset about it in the same way I would not want my tax dollars going towards a group that spread beliefs about another religion. However, I also would not want the group to be constrained to speak on the account of government money. If those in a Christian or other religious group can never talk about their faith, the group, in my opinion, loses much of its identity and purpose, if not all of it. This conundrum is why I am skeptical of the Faith-Based Initiative program in the United States. While not unconstitutional in my opinion, the program provides an argument for why there should be separation between the institutions of church and state (key word-institution, I think “separation of church and state” gets thrown around and misused way too often, but thats a whole other story)
However, maybe getting funding from a Lottery may be somewhat of a solution. Unlike paying taxes, buying a lottery ticket is voluntary. If you do so, you are making an active decision and are agreeing to wherever that money will go. As long as lottery ticket buyers know their money might go to a religious charity, I do not see the problems that I listed above.
For more information about the UK lottery, visit http://www.national-lottery.co.uk/player/p/goodcausesandwinners.ftl
Volunteered on 24/03/2011
2 Hours: Total of 18 Hours
New Hope Christian Centre
Supervisor: Duane Elkins