In Their Lifetime (ITL) is a community of supporters, Christian Aid staff, local partners and communities, all with a determination to change the status quo. As part of an ongoing series of articles we share reflections from members of this community about their reasons for supporting ITL.
There are two enduring passions are in our family genes – gender equality and Christian Aid.
The first: well, our family consisted of three daughters, our mother Geraldine was one of four daughters, her mother one of two daughters, and the new generation has three girls in it (oh, and one boy).
The second: Christian Aid, has been part of our lives as a family forever. Our parents were lifetime supporters and Christian Aid Week was an annual ritual. Our father was a parish priest, so every year we went round delivering and collecting the envelopes, then counting the donations on the kitchen table. Up until well into her eighties my mother would stand outside Smiths in Chichester rattling her tin for Christian Aid Week every year, and my sisters and I were doing the same in our various locations.
Our annual Christian Aid Week efforts were slightly overshadowed when Sophie, the oldest of the three Hamilton girls, and her best friend Charlotte, for their joint 50th birthdays walked the Machu Pichu trail to raise money for Christian Aid, cajoling and persuading their friends and families and raising an impressive £26,000.
Sophie was a lawyer and worked closely with Church House in that capacity. She sat on the In Their Lifetime cabinet with Loretta Mingella from its inception and was a great supporter of the new approach taken by Christian Aid to support a range of specific seed-funded projects with very specific objectives.
One of the first ITL projects in 2010 was working with local partners in Sierra Leone to help them find ways to address conflict within the community. Sophie visited Sierra Leone with fellow Christian Aid cabinet members to see the ITL work on the ground, attending several meetings between local government and communities where local organisations were helping the communities to hold their chieftains to account and to develop more democratic processes.
As I explained, gender equality has always been a passion in our family. Our father, presented with three daughters, took the robust view in the early 60s that we would achieve whatever we wanted to achieve regardless (and we did). That works, more or less, in this country, but is enormously difficult in many parts of the world.
At the heart of the work of Christian Aid has always been a belief that achieving gender equality across the world is essential if we are ever to eradicate poverty. So, when Sophie died aged 57, it seemed fitting to use her legacy to set up with ITL the Power to Women project in Sierra Leone with the aim of improving the participation of women in local and national government and tackling the culture of gender-based violence.
In 2016, in the aftermath of Ebola, we were able as a family to visit Kailahun province and attend a meeting of the women councillors, and also to meet with some of the local chieftains. It was humbling and inspiring to meet the women involved in changing their world, passionate about their country and strong in their belief that they could, and would instil change for themselves and for future generations of women and girls.
We remain passionate supporters of the work that Christian Aid continues to do through In Their Lifetime. The projects in the first phase were inspiring and the emphasis on supporting communities to take control has been transformational. We hope there will be enough support for this approach for ITL to be able to launch many more projects in the years to come.