A Profile Of Bangor Christian Aid Worker Jean Thompson

After fundraising and campaigning to end poverty for almost 30 years, Jean Thompson from Bangor has pledged a gift in her will to Christian Aid.

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After fundraising and campaigning to end poverty for almost 30 years, Jean Thompson from Bangor has pledged a gift in her will to Christian Aid.

Jean Thompson is a keen Christian Aid supporter since 1994. She said: “I’m passionate about Christian Aid because they help people in poor countries, regardless of their religion.”

Jean makes a monthly donation by direct debit as well as ad hoc donations in response to emergency appeals that may arise.

Jean Thompson, a Christian Aid activist.

Since retiring from her role as a clerical officer in a residential home, Jean has had more time to devote to her unpaid work as the Christian Aid organiser at First Bangor Presbyterian Church.

Each May during Christian Aid Week, she carries out a house-to-house collection in the town, and after church on Sundays she holds coffee mornings and Traidcraft stalls to raise funds for the charity’s work. She is supported by many friends in her church but makes special mention of Maisie Burton.

So what motivates Jean ? Why does she do it? She said: “I’m passionate about this charity because they help everyone who needs it – it doesn’t matter what religion they are.

“In Bangladesh, they help people whose crops have been destroyed by floods. In Kenya where there’s been a drought and women walk for hours each day to collect water. Christian Aid has been building new water sources. These examples show that not only because of my Christian faith and belief in Christian Aid but also because I want to help people in need in a practical sense too.”

Besides her financial support and her fundraising, Jean is also an activist, amplifying Christian Aid’s campaign messages on debt, climate change, taxation and fair trade.

In 2007, Jean and her husband Andy took part in a Christian Aid march in London, calling on the UK government to introduce a Climate Change Act to cut the UK’s carbon emissions – legislation that was introduced the following year. 

Jean with her husband Andy campaigning for the environment in London in 2007.

Closer to home, she joins in local campaigns, building public support for debt cancellation, fair trade and tax justice – tax policies that don’t rob the poorest countries of much-needed revenue.

She recalls one action in particular: “In 2000, Christian Aid had commissioned a 6ft artwork called Body of Chains which was touring around the UK and Ireland. It was a human form made entirely from chains, representing the bondage caused by developing countries’ debt burden.

“We brought the artwork to Bloomfield Shopping Centre and got shoppers to sign the petition asking the government to cancel this unpayable debt.”

The Body of Chains artwork formed part of the Jubilee 2000 campaign which successfully lobbied for billions of dollars of debt cancellation. But debt cancellation wasn’t the only change that Jean helped to bring about. She was part of the movement that brought fair trade products into the mainstream of our lives.

Jean said: “This was back when the supermarkets weren’t stocking fair trade produce. We collected till receipts from members of our church and used a highlighter pen to draw attention to all the items that could be fair trade – like bananas, chocolate, tea, coffee and sugar.

“We met the supermarket managers, showed them the receipts and asked them to stock fair trade versions.”

Jean Thompson, Christian Aid supporter.

Last year, Jean decided to leave a gift in her Will to Christian Aid. What prompted her decision?

“I always attend the Christian Aid supporter conferences and last year, one of the staff asked us to consider leaving a gift in our Will so I decided to do it. It was all very straightforward.”

Jean wrote her Will during Will Aid Month in November 2019. Now in its 11th year, participating solicitors waive their fee for writing a basic Will in lieu of a donation to charity. Christian Aid is among nine well-known charities to benefit.

Jean has lived in Bangor since marrying Andy in 1968. She describes her childhood as ‘normal and happy’. Jean who came from Ballymena was GB Captain there at the Wellington Street Presbyterian Church and her brother was the Boys Brigade captain. Jean and Andy have two sons – Peter lives in Michigan in the United States and Victor lives in London.

And what do her sons think about her decision to leave a gift in her Will to Christian Aid? “They don’t know yet. They’ll find out when they read this though”, she laughed. “But they don’t need to worry – they will be looked after.”

Deborah Doherty, Christian Aid’s former Head of Supporter Engagement, paid tribute to Jean and said: “Jean generously gives her time and money to Christian Aid. She carries out a house-to-house collection to raise funds, as well as running coffee mornings and Traidcraft stalls.

“She never misses a Christian Aid conference or event. Supported by her husband Andy and good friend Maisie Burton, Jean is a terrific ambassador for Christian Aid in Bangor.”

The greatest challenge of Jean’s life came in 2011 when doctors discovered stage 4 cancer in her left leg. The surgeon warned her that he would have to remove one third of her leg muscle and that she might never walk again.

“But she’s thankful that she made a good recovery and that the worst didn’t come to pass. Within a few months, she was back on the fundraising trail again,” said Deborah Doherty.

“By the following May, I was able to carry out the house-to-house collection for Christian Aid. I’m very grateful. The power of prayer brought me through,” said Jean, adding a reflection on her life to date.

Jean said: “I’m a happy person. We have a happy marriage and a happy home life. I have no regrets.”

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You too can leave a lasting legacy by remembering Christian Aid in your Will. If you would like information or have any queries, please contact Sarah Leeman by email on:
sleeman@christian-aid.org 
or telephone 028 9064 8133.