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Connecting leaders, connecting communities

Simon Woolley reflects on a week when church ministers and government ministers joined forces for Haiti.

An extraordinary occurrence happened on Monday. Forty or so faith-based leaders – many of whom had been involved directly and indirectly with the Haiti earthquake relief operation – were called together by Douglas Alexander MP, the Minster for International Development.

It was an extraordinary coming together because the meeting was only arranged some three days before – including over the weekend.

So what brought these powerful men and women together, to pool their resources, and offer advice to the Government as to how they should operate in the short, medium and long term?

Early last week, OBV contacted minister David Lammy, informing him that Rev Al Sharpton would like to meet him and the International Development Minister to think closely about how best to utilise faith-based organisations in every aspect of solving Haiti’s problems.

Lammy agreed and joined his ministerial colleague for a meeting with Sharpton and OBV. Sharpton and Alexander found an instant rapport.

With his in-depth knowledge about US politics and his wonderful story about his Church minister parents going to the US in the 1960’s and being spat upon for defending a young church minister by the name of Dr Martin Luther King, Alexander had won the trust that he would be a man of action.

Four days later small aid organisations and faith leaders were given a platform not only to inform the Government about what they had already done – from setting up tents for the homeless to providing ambulances and ferrying the sick- but also to articulate the long term need to effectively build this nations broken infrastructure without crippling debt.

The Minister agreed, informing the small audience that the UK had already wiped off the nations debt and would be urging others to do likewise.

‘This is a new, more informed way to tackle these problems’, the Minister stated, adding: ‘lets have further discussions and all reconvene in a months time to see where we are. Once the cameras have gone we still must be there’.

We at OBV are just privileged that with the help of David Lammy we were able to connect leaders and communities and work better together.


We were also able to broker a meeting the Rev Al Sharpton and the ArchBishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. An aide of the Archbishop informed me that he was taking Sharpton’s message to Ban Ki Moon Secretary General of the United Nations that very day.


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