Home > Local Church News > A little help goes a long way
Rev Russell Reynoldson, Morerd Mwakajumba and Dr Njau Gitu with ASCOF members Leyna and Ronisha.
Rev Russell Reynoldson, Morerd Mwakajumba (left) and Dr Njau Gitu (far right) with ASCOF members Leyna and Ronisha (centre). Photo: Supplied

A little help goes a long way

As part of its development project, Forest Lake Uniting Church in Brisbane’s south west is partnering with ASCOF to provide interest-free loans to those who need them most. Rohan Salmond explores.

For migrants and people on government payments, a lack of credit rating and a low income can mean exclusion from financial services. Uniting Church member Dr Njau Gitu is the Program Director of ASCOF, a financial inclusion advocacy organisation whose mission is to ensure everyone gets the chance to access the financial information they need. Alongside Forest Lake Uniting Church, ASCOF through the voluntary efforts of Njau is providing interest-free loans to those who need them most.

The loans are between $300 and $1200 and are underwritten at no interest by the National Australia Bank. They are administered by Good Shepherd Microfinance, an activity of the Catholic order Sisters of the Good Shepherd, of which ASCOF is an accredited provider.

“The no-interest loans are for people who are low income—people who would otherwise not be able to access any funding from mainstream financial institutions,” says Njau.

“Through this program we have assisted many people who would otherwise never get the assistance,” he says. “We’re talking about assisting people to get their basic household appliances that the rest of us take for granted.

“The support we have received from the Uniting Church has been tremendous,” he says.

Founded in 2009, ASCOF originally stood for “Africans Community Foundation” and catered to migrants from African nations. Now the name is no longer an acronym, reflecting how ASCOF’s broader focus includes members from all kinds of cultural and linguistic backgrounds including Indigenous Australians, Pacific Islanders as well as Australians whose first language is English. Widening the scope of ASCOF’s programs was helped by Njau’s partnership with Forest Lake Uniting. Their minister, Rev Russell Reynoldson, is enthusiastic about their partnership.

“Our job as a church is to give support to Njau,” says Russell, “but he also refers people to me if they need extra support … The people who don’t fit into [Njau’s] criteria will be referred to the welfare side of our church and vice-versa so we’re going to be working in partnership with him as it unfolds.”

Forest Lake Uniting Church intends to expand their partnership with ASCOF through the construction of a “community life centre” which will afford them more space.

“That will provide counselling rooms,” says Russell. “Njau isn’t just giving people no-interest loans, he also provides counselling and support for people who are in financial need. There’s a fair bit of budgeting and that sort of thing done with the people.

“In a sense, this is all about building community connections. As a church that’s what’s driving us at the moment … Given the Vision 2020 of the church, community engagement fits very strongly into that area.”


One comment

  1. The Uniting Church along with other organisations is providing many valuable services to the community and in particular to those in most need. One of the parts of successful budgeting for anyone is to consider the weekly menu and to obtain recipes which provide wholesome, tasty food at the lowest possible cost. Cheaoer cuts of meat, for example can be made into very tender meals simply by applying particular methods of cooking.

    Some cooking lessons for many people would be appreciated for this purpose and a shopping list prepared together perhaps with some assistance with initial shopping to find “specials” – lots available on certain days at WW and Coles – as well as some help in resisting fattening foods, chips, soft drinks etc which are hard on the budget and the body.

    Just a suggestion!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *