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 1950s this was as direct as a rice bowl replica on the Christmas dinner table of supporters. In the 1970s people gave the cost of their Christmas dinner. By the 1980s  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.

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 been possible because of the generous contributions of many individuals for more than 70 years.

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 for Greece launched by Archbishop West Watson for the 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.’’

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.

The ties with the Palestinian refugee community are amongst the longest for CWS.  New Zealanders responded to local Palestinian Christians and churches assisting those who needed food and shelter.

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  1960s and 1970s 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 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 1970s when the Christmas Appeal helped support students in apartheid South Africa and reconstruction work in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

By the 1980s 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.  The emergence of the global market, the growing power of transnational corporations and the harmful effects of World Bank’s structural adjustment programmes, divided the world more clearly into the haves and the have-nots.  The importance of women as drivers of good development was increasingly recognised in aid circles.

By the 1990s as the evidence of the impacts of neoliberal economic policies mounted  CWS partners sharpened their analysis of globalisation to better help some of the poorest people stand up for their rights.  CWS participated in the national coalition to stop the worst forms of child labour.

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. CWS paid increasing attention to developing country debt and free trade as drivers of poverty.  CWS and Caritas led the national Jubilee campaign to cancel third world debt.

Changing times

Recent years have put CWS under greater pressure as climate change and complex conflicts have meant asking our generous donors to support more emergency appeals.

Partner programmes have deepened their analysis and expertise to respond to the changing environment.  Disaster preparedness is now part of most of their work.  Many draw on a broad network to expand training on sustainable low cost farming based on organic systems. 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 74 years one constant has been the commitment to do what is believed to be right by the people. This Christmas Appeal focuses on listening to the stories of local communities rising to the many challenges they face with fewer resources. The more we can give, the more they can do and the more people they can help escape poverty.