Child poverty is alarmingly high in the local area around St Chrysostom’s Church. Earlier this year we learned (see here) that the parliamentary constituency in which St Chrysostom’s Church stands has the highest incidence of child poverty outside London.
Many organisations are working to address this massive problem. We’ve been praying about this at Church and thinking of ways we can support efforts to alleviate poverty. Our response will, naturally, be on the local level and much of what we can do will be to support the many agencies tackling the issue.
We have started a small and special initiative – Olympias Books. Following discussion with local teachers and parents we have become very aware that encouraging education, and especially reading, helps alleviate poverty. Schools are doing a good job, and we have always encouraged volunteers to assist with reading in local schools.
However, books can be very expensive, especially to households with limited income. Although children have free and easy access to books in school, they often don’t have such access at home.
St Chrysostom’s Church has therefore launched Olympias Books – a simple but very worthwhile project to provide quality reading books for local primary school aged children at inexpensive prices. It’s an initiative connecting many different people. Our church acts as a catalyst. We chose the name Olympias Books, after St Olympias the great woman saint who showed love and care to her community and was a supportive companion of St John Chrysostom.
The initiative is simple – we invite people to donate good quality second hand children’s books to church. Church people have done so, and we have worked hard to cast the net wider. We have formed a partnership with Manchester Grammar School and parents of boys there have given a large quantity of excellent books. Amazing work has been done by ‘our book scouts’ who have bought large amounts from charity shops both locally and further afield. A teaching assistant, Janyce, at St Chrysostom’s School has done amazing work in this area. We’ve also encouraged links with some churches in more affluent areas to help us and some charity shops have even looked out for donations of large sets of high quality books and alerted us.
The response has simply been amazing. We have received hundreds and hundreds of excellent quality books. They were all then carefully sorted into age groups and we had our first book sale at St John’s CE School, Longsight recently. Miss Mercer, assistant head at the school marshalled children to organise the sale itself in the school playground at the end of the school day . They did so with energy and enthusiasm and gained skills in mental maths, managing money and customer service, as well as knowing they were doing something worthwhile for their own community, and for another community across the world at the same time.
We charged very low prices for the books and a huge number were sold to a large number of different parents and carers. It was lovely to see some families able to afford to get their own copies of Harry Potter and many more wonderful books! The money raised at the book sale itself has been dedicated to help a school in Gambia desperately in need of resources. So not only does Olympias Books help provide children with good books, it encourages connections in the community and supports a needy school in Africa.
The next step? We are continuing to collect and build up more partnerships, and we’re also having an Olympias Books church book sale soon, this time of books for adults, money from which will support the children’s books initiative.