Haiti Revisited & Beach Plastic
By, Sergio Burns
I arrive and I am warmly greeted, but the accent is the immediate giveaway. This is not the strong Troon burr I expected – tongue-firmly-in-cheek – but a lilting Irish brogue. Richard Woods, Pastor of Seagate Church, Troon, holds his hands up and laughs, mea culpa.
“I was brought up in Northern Ireland,” Richard reveals. “I came to Scotland for university and went to Dundee, and moved to Dundee where I met my now wife, Heather, we have two girls Lucy…12 and …Niamh 9. I trained as a lawyer, so I was head of litigation for an employment law firm which also factors in with the job club…I kind of understand the employment world.”
Richard, who eventually left law to study theology and became Pastor of Seagate in 2014, is referring to the job club group that the church organises on a Thursday.
“The job club in particular is a Christians against Poverty initiative,” Richard explained. “I have been part of Christians Against Poverty now for about seven or eight years. When I became Pastor here (2014), one of the things I said to the church was that…I want our church to be very much part of the community. Right in the heart of the community, and right in the heart of the difficult spaces. Trying to help people who have fallen on hard times, and unemployment can happen to anyone.”
I can see Richard has some feeling for the subject. He relaxes back into his chair, then moving forward again, shakes his head.
“We often think that people have made bad decisions,” he starts up. “But, invariably [it is] because of life’s circumstances, because of a tragic life event or something like that, that has led them into a situation where they find they can’t work.”
As Richard suggests, unemployment can, of course, also be part of a configuration of political, economic, historic and even geographic forces that conspire to send people out onto the street. Research shows that people who have been left jobless feel that they no longer have an identity, or a purpose in life, they feel they have lost dignity, no longer feel like a ‘human being’, and often feel isolated. The job club is for everyone, faith or no faith, Richard explains, and takes place every Thursday at 11.30.
But Richard’s calling is global and he recently returned from another trip to one of the poorest and most disadvantaged areas of the world: Haiti.
“I was a trustee of a charity called Mission International based in Dundee,” he told me. “It has the aim of connecting with the local community in some of the poorest places in the world, and rather than a kind of colonial approach, which is going in and telling them what to do, we work with them on lots of little projects and slightly bigger projects. The idea being that they tell us … in a local context because they know better than we would… what would make a difference.”
The organisation has worked in many countries abroad including Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, Myanmar, India and Peru.
“So, there was an earthquake that happened in….