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Green Dorset Friary launches Christian Aid's Harvest Appeal

Brother Hugh points to the solar panels on the chapel's roof

A rural Dorset friary powered on energy from the sun and wood chippings has launched our Harvest Appeal empowering rural women across the world through renewable energy.

As England’s hottest summer on record came to an end, staff at Hilfield Friary, near Dorchester, invited guests to hear about Christian Aid's solar projects in Ethiopia and Bolivia and see the friary's own renewable energy projects.

Visitors to the friary, the UK’s first religious community to have been awarded a gold Eco Church award, heard how Christian Aid partners are using solar energy to give rural women social and economic independence, protect their children from smoke and reduce deforestation for firewood.

This year's Harvest Appeal is raising funds for similar projects in Malawi, Burkina Faso, Honduras and Ethiopia. This year, every £1 you donate will become £5, thanks to funding from the European Union.

A Harvest of light and hope

Christian Aid’s Dorset Regional Coordinator Fiona Daborn said: 'Solar energy is giving power to women across the world in dramatic ways - opening up opportunities for them to earn a living, protect the health of their families, avoid personal risk when collecting firewood and protect the environment.

'It was perfect to launch the appeal at Hilfield Friary where the brothers keenly feel our interdependence both between one another and the earth and are encouraging churches to take steps to cherish communities and the planet.

Agar and sibling reading by solar lamp

Aster's children can now do their homework at night, thanks to a new solar lamp.

Photo: Matt Gonzalez-Noda

'Aster is from a rural community in south Ethiopia where erratic weather is causing crops to fail and where food and water shortages are common. A small solar lamp in her home has completely transformed her life, as well as her children’s health and education, because they can now study after nightfall and are no longer breathing in smoke from the fire.

'Together with other women she runs a solar-powered shop generating an income and giving women in her community social and economic power.

'This Harvest Appeal enables us to bring light and power and hope to women like Aster – if we stand together, we can make this change for communities like Aster’s and for our shared world.'

Stand together with Aster this Harvest

Hilfield Friary is the home of Franciscan brothers of Anglican Society of St Francis who are joined by other men and women who together constitute the Hilfield Friary Community. Together they share in the rhythm of daily prayer, look after the Friary land and buildings, and offers hospitality to guests and visitors.

The Friary’s Brother Hugh said: 'This summer’s heatwave has brought home to many people the impact of a changing global climate and our interconnectedness as fellow human beings sharing this world’s resources.

Our Eco church award was based as much on our eco-thinking and eco-praying as the hardware on our chapel roof.

Brother Hugh, Hilfield Friary

'It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by how much needs to be done to limit damage. These stories of hope from Ethiopia are deeply inspiring because we can learn from one another and see that each of us can make a profound difference.

'We heard of villages in Ethiopia which had never had electricity before but women living with the harsh reality of extreme weather are coming together and harnessing the power of the sun to lead fuller, safer lives. 

'We see creation as a precious gift from God and actions that are in harmony with nature and respectful of one another bring him glory. We would love to see churches across Dorset and the country supporting this Harvest Appeal as we recognise our calling to move towards a world where more people can thrive. And of course the planet and its biodiversity has to thrive too.

'At the Friary we often talk about St Francis seeing all of creation as his brothers and sisters. Our solar panels aren’t just about making electricity, but of making us think more eco-theologically. Our Eco Church award was based as much on our eco-thinking and eco-praying as the hardware on our chapel roof.'

Get involved this Harvest