History of the appeal

Funding off the sheep’s back…

Sheep sale proceeds are one classically Kiwi way that Christmas appeals have been funded.

While our records don’t say how long this very New Zealand funding stream ran it’s just one of many ingenious ways appeals have been paid for since 1945.

One example CWS still wishes would catch on was in 1962 when a North Island church office was anonymously sent what was then 1000 pounds in bunches of small notes. Make it dollars and it is still a fine example to follow!

People have also given via wedding “fees”, Christmas tree sales, dance profits, and one penny (cent)-a -meal lunches and dinners donations over a year.

The Christmas Bowl

Christmas Day itself has always been a day when donors are encouraged to dig deep.

In the 1950’s this was as direct as a rice bowl replica on the Christmas dinner table of supporters. In the 1970’s people gave the cost of their Christmas dinner. By the 1980’s  there were Christmas pudding auctions and a 10 per cent “tax” on the total cost of end of year Christmas parties.

Keeping up with the times

Online giving arrived at CWS with the age of the Internet and continues to grow with the Net.

Funding styles are not the only aspect of the appeals that have changed over the years, the history of the appeals also provides a reminder of shifting social causes and awareness.Christian World Service has a trailblazing tradition of backing causes from a moral perspective which is not always the most immediately popular way to go.

Stepping on the toes of convention ….

Doing good globally has also meant being willing to step on the toes of convention for Christian World Service. The life affirming 65th Christmas Appeal theme of “Share the Care” puts a positive spotlight on some of the good work CWS does globally. Other appeals over the years have not always been as upbeat about aid and development and global issues.

The very first appeals had their initial impetus coming from churches wanting to help rebuild Europe after World War II. The first appeal subject was Greece with the appeal promoted under the banner of Archbishop West Watson and what was then the National Council of Churches.

War’s grim shadow and the close emotional ties with Britain could be seen in the statement backing the appeal which appeared in The Press in November 1945.

“We do not forget the needs of the homeland, and we hope that more may be done in the way of sending food; but Greece has a special claim on New Zealand’s assistance because it was alongside the Greeks that New Zealand’s men and women suffered, and because so many of our men had reason to bless the generosity and self-sacrifice of that people when they were in desperate need of help,’’ the statement said.

Beyond Europe

Appeals stayed Europe-focussed until 1949 when the maelstrom of the Middle East was added to the mix. By then the universal commitment of CWS to helping those most in need was clear.

Middle Eastern refugees included those from Europe setting up Israel and Palestinian refugees. The ties with the Palestinian refugee community are amongst the longest for CWS.

The next shift in appeal focus was driven by the Korean War and Indonesia’s efforts to recover from occupation and colonisation shifting the appeal spotlight to include Asia.

The introduction of the rice bowl on the Christmas table as a fundraising tool also doubled as a reminder of the needs of Asia.
By the 1960’s providing aid and development support to post-colonial Africa and the Pacific had been added to the appeal targets.
The huge issues of the  1960’s and 1970’s were echoed, supported and promoted by CWS both in Christmas Appeals and as part of their advocacy and education activity.

The issues propelled the faith based aid and development agency into the very front row of many controversial issues and causes.

On the cutting edge

By 1963 appeal funding was going to Cuba after American churches had been banned from helping Cuba by their Government. This was the first foray into what has been a continuous involvement with Latin America.

The next year funds were going closer to home with support provided within New Zealand for refugees. The same year donations were also fed into the Mississippi delta region to support the struggle for equality for Black Americans.

The same morally driven emphasis on doing what was right, not popular, showed up in the 1970’s when the Christmas Appeal helped support students in apartheid South Africa and reconstruction work in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

By the 1980’s the appeal message moved into the multicultural era with posters produced in an ever increasing array of languages.

The commitment was then made toward a low budget approach to funding that works on church and community based promotion eschewing the big budget spends of television and mass media.

By the 1990’s as the evidence of the impacts of neo liberal economic policies mounted  CWS supporters were encouraged to give their money to projects aimed at economically empowering the poorest of the poor.

It was a time when CWS codified their commitment to their partnership model of aid and development working directly with partner groups by support and monitoring. Campaigns looked hard at the complex causes of poverty, possible and proven solutions and the need to lighten the debt burden of Third World nations.

Changing times

Recent years have put CWS under the same emergent pressures as many other aid and development agencies as factors like climate change and population growth have meant emergency appeals have become much more frequent.

Partner programmes have moved into more active models for developing sustainable low input farming based on organic systems that are both low impact and low cost. They have also continued their human rights and justice work, seeking to influence policy and practice at the local, national and international levels.

Through all the causes and campaigns of the past 70 years one constant has been the commitment to do what is believed to be right by the people. This Christmas Appeal focuses on how landgrabbing is undermining the livelihoods of millions of the poorest peoples. At the same time it celebrates the resilience of CWS partners making much needed change happen with less resources. The more we can give, the more they can do.