Business – for a change

2013-11-16 14.59.27

He was described as “cheery, talkative, flamboyant and warm-hearted.”

He was the owner of the Gloucester Journal newspaper in the late 1700’s. Evidently sensitive to the needs in society all around him, his first concern were the poor in Gloucester Prison and particularly those who whose families could not provide for them. Raikes used his paper to make people aware of these needs and to appeal for help. This led to a concern for the children of poor families. He was horrified to see children running wild in the streets without education or real hope. Raikes realised that the prisons were full of people whose lives had been shaped by disadvantaged childhood. Many of the children in the street on a Sunday were working long hours for the other six days and earning pitiful wages. He realised that education was vital and started to fund and promote his idea of Sunday Schools.

As well as publicising the schools he funded much of the cost. His first school began with four women who were paid to teach from the Bible. Robert Raikes himself got involved in the work of the schools by encouraging the children, visiting them in their homes and giving rewards for good progress. Children were welcomed to the classes, whatever their state, and the schools quickly became known as “Raikes’ Ragged School”.

Raikes used his newspaper to make the schools known and the idea spread quickly with interest springing up across the country. Before long, Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, heard of the work and granted him an audience. She was so impressed that she encouraged others to follow his example.

By 1830 over a million children were involved in classes across the country which became the forerunner of the English school system. The evident benefit of these classes led to blossoming social enterprises such as sewing classes, sports clubs and societies for mutual improvement and excursions.

Robert Raikes’ desire to see change in disadvantaged peoples’ lives, began with the prison near his newspaper premises, and the children in the streets where he lived and worked. He engaged with the problem and used his influence and resources in a timely and innovative way. His passionate action fuelled a process that changed England and Great Britain.

Timely and innovative use of influence and wealth changed a nation.

Surely it is time for people of passion and faith to express their conviction and see change now? As a nation we have largely abandoned Christian values and dumbed down those who might speak up for integrity and healthy society. With the nation anxious about knife crime and drug culture, we have a new generation of ‘ragged children.’ The challenge is for people who have the faith, motivation and resources to personally get involved in the challenge.

John Manwell is one of the founders of the North West Christian Business Forum – there are now several hundred members across the North West of England.

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