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Christian Resources for Worship in Schools

The 4 million (pound) Question?!

St Peter Damian came from an extremely poor and struggling family. He was orphaned at a young age. This assembly appreciates his life but, most importantly, helps us to look at the issue of child Poverty not simply throughout the world but in the UK today. St Peter Damian’s’ feast day is on February 21st.

Opening Activity:

Reel off the following statistics. (You may want to prepare a few powerpoint slides, or simply prepare a large card with the phrase ‘4 million’ written on it and hold it up as you speak)

4 million is the number of pounds that Susan Boyle received in her first Royalty cheque following her debut album ‘I Dreamed a Dream’

4 million is the number of viewers that the final episode of Big Brother had in 2010

4 million is the number of Nintendos 3DS that Nintendo want to sell in the first month they are available (February/March 2010)

4 million is the number of people in the UK who have missed a credit card payment in the last year.

4 million is the number of children living in poverty in the UK

This refers to the number of children who are living within a low income family, those on certain benefits,.

Here some more figures and statements, which you may want to share with the assembly.
The proportion of children living in poverty grew from 1 in 10 (in 1979) to 1 in 3 (in 1998). Today, 30 per cent of children in Britain are living in poverty.
The UK has one of the worst rates of child poverty in the industrialised world
The majority (59 per cent) of poor children live in a household where at least one adult works.
40 per cent of poor children live in a household headed by a lone parent. The majority of poor children (57 per cent) live in a household headed by a couple.
38% of children in poverty are from families with 3 or more children.

Since 1999, when the current Government pledged to end child poverty, 550,000 children have been lifted out of poverty (Statistics are from www.endchildpoverty.org.uk)

Poor Peter Damian
Today we are thinking about a saint called St Peter Damian who lived in the eleventh century. You may wonder what on earth a person who lived 1000 years ago has to do with us today. And what on earth has he got to do with child poverty?!

Well, St Peter Damian knew all about child poverty. He knew what it was like to be brought up in a poor family. In fact, when he was born, one of his older brothers was very angry that there was another mouth to feed, and his mother refused to suckle him. It was only a local farmer who saved the boy and looked after him. It was then that his mother saw how wrong she had been and took up her responsibilities. However, Peter’s parents died when he was young and his older brother adopted him, only to mistreat him and underfeed him and employ him to work with pigs. It was only because another of his brothers (who was a priest) came to the rescue. It was because of his brother, Damian, that Peter had any chance at all. Peter was so grateful to him that he took his name!

Damian saw how clever Peter was and took care of his education, giving him the opportunity to go to university. Peter dedicated himself to study and prayer and soon left behind all the distractions of life to lead a very simple life as a hermit monk. However, he became well known as a person who tried to reconcile Christians, and bring people together. Perhaps his background and upbringing had given him an insight into the important things in life, especially the importance of getting along, looking out for one another, being there for one another, and trying to bring reform when there was wrongdoing or abuse.

So where does that leave us?
Peter had an extremely poor and difficult childhood, and things have not really changed. There are still many children, even in our own country and our own community who struggle and live in poverty. There are 4 million children in the UK today who live in poverty. How does that make us feel? And do we feel like doing anything about it?

Reflection
Can we get involved with campaign to politicians to end child poverty?
Can we be more understanding and sympathetic to those who are poor or who are less well off?
How can we be generous towards those who are poor?
If we live in poor or difficult circumstances, we can know that so much is being done to help raise people from poverty. We can know that there are people who are fighting our cause and who understand us.

Prayer
God our Father,
Help us to do all we can to end child poverty.
Help us to be generous and understanding.
Help us to help others.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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