Resident Peter has given 50 years to help Christian Aid

Peter Robinson, a resident at Abbeyfield Court in Locks Heath, is no stranger to the need to adapt and work hard. Having had jobs as a tool designer, an electromechanical drafting instructor at a Government Skoll Centre, and an instructor in computer aided drafting – in addition to national service in the Intelligence Corps – you would be forgiven for thinking he deserved a break after retiring at the age of 70.

However, one activity which Peter would not give up so easily, is volunteering for Christian Aid.

Peter explains, “In the early 1970’s I was approached just before a Christian Aid Week by a friend, who asked, ‘Are you collecting for Christian Aid?’ ‘No,’ I replied, to which he said, ‘Well you jolly well should be!’ So I collected and soon joined the committee.”

By the mid-1970s, Peter had become the committee secretary and District Organiser, looking after seven local churches. It was clear that Christian Aid embodied values that gelled well with his personality, and he attended a number of rallies with his wife of 59 years, Marion, in London and Brighton, and also one in Edinburgh – during a G7 summit at Gleneagles – in support of the ‘Trade Justice’ campaign.

“Ever since I first volunteered I have been a very keen supporter of Christian Aid and its objectives – to lift the poorest people in the world out of poverty regardless of faith, race or colour,” he says. “Most of my volunteering has been administrative, but there was always the annual Christian Aid Week door-to-door collection. This is when you meet all kinds of people, from the chatty and amicable, to the irritable and sometimes downright abusive.

“I remember an amusing incident when, having had an earful of hostility from an elderly man, I accidentally knocked on the same man’s back door. Fortunately, I could run faster than he could! But,” Peter continues, “I have also made many friends over the years, including Regional Co-ordinators employed by Christian Aid, and I feel grateful to have been part of such a brilliant and friendly team.”

(The left photo shows Peter with is certificate, and the right shows Peter in London, 2006 with a friend)

Such is Peter’s enjoyment in volunteering that he has never missed a Christian Aid Week since he started – even when conditions were not ideal. “I will never forget the year it poured with rain every day. I clothed myself with waterproofs and started knocking on doors. I must have resembled a drowned rat because people said how sorry they were for me. On the plus side, I collected almost twice as much as I normally get from that road!”

Peter is not one to shy away from a challenge, a trait he also exhibited on the administrative side of his work on the Christian Aid committee. “I have used computers extensively in my work and been quite good at solving problems, but I was stumped when trying to get a database programme to work the way I wanted it to work. So, I signed up to a Learndirect course and now have a certificate to say I completed the IT2 Database Course. This enabled me to run the problem programme as I had intended it to run and to generate a second programme, both of which made my work on the committee very much easier.”

Now 91 years old, Peter has been more recently volunteering for Christian Aid from his home of two years, Abbeyfield Court, in Locks Heath, South-East of Southampton. It is just down the road from where he and Marion have lived for nearly 60 years, and Marion, his fellow residents and the staff team have supported Peter’s efforts to continue to raise money through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The lockdown in May 2020 meant the usual door-to-door collection couldn’t happen. So, inspired by Captain Tom Moore, I decided to walk around Abbeyfield Court 220 times, approximately a twenty-mile journey. I set up a JustGiving page, inviting folk to sponsor me for the walk, e-mailed all my friends and acquaintances, and then watched the money pour in.” And pour in it did, totalling an incredible £1550 for Christian Aid.

(Photos show Peter's walk around Abbeyfield Court, inspired by Captain Tom Moore)

Buoyed by his success in 2020, this year’s Christian Aid Week was a similar story, and the fact that Abbeyfield Court was still locked down did not put Peter off at all. “I realised that I wouldn’t be able to walk very far so I looked for ideas on the Christian Aid website and discovered the H2Only Challenge. I set up another JustGiving page, e-mailed all my supporters to thank them for last year’s generosity, and invited them to sponsor me for drinking nothing but water for four weeks.” This was both tough and fun at the same time. “But,” Peter says, “apart from watching the money mounting up, the most enjoyable part was drinking the cup of tea I made myself at six o’clock on the morning following the challenge!”

Peter has raised nearly £800, plus Gift Aid, so far this year, a total that continues to grow and his fundraising efforts have legendary status at Abbeyfield Court.

Senior House Manager Lucy Perry, said, “All of us at Abbeyfield Court are immensely proud of what Peter has accomplished, not just this year but of all his fundraising efforts over the years. Our residents are always excited to see Peter’s progress and we were all gripped when he undertook the walking challenge during lockdown.”

Peter’s efforts have also not gone unrewarded by Christian Aid, and he was presented with their prestigious Diamond Award in 2018.

Christian Aid’s Church Engagement Project Officer for the region, Laura Mead, said, “Life-long volunteers like Peter are essential to the work of Christian Aid. It’s not just his determination to do these challenges and collections, or the incredible amounts he raises, it’s also the hope and inspiration our staff and those who are supported by Christian Aid get from knowing that people like him are willing to stand up in service of those living in extreme poverty. It warms our hearts and drives us onwards. Thank you, Peter!”

Despite the obvious enjoyment he takes from his volunteering, Peter appreciates the need to be “realistic” about his role going forward. “I am in my 92nd year,” he says, “and must bear in mind that I am profoundly deaf, almost blind and fairly lame. Christian Aid is a part of me now and I would love to help their cause for as long as I can. I tend to be an opportunist, so I’ll wait to see what the future holds.”

You can donate to Peter’s H2Only Challenge on JustGiving.