Kaleidoscope has no official position on the EU Referendum but of course, the outcome affects us all. So why do I say you should consider voting remaining in?
As an organisation we consider ourselves to be International. We are not simply about England or latterly Wales but we have seen ourselves involved in a service impacting people globally.
I am proud that Kaleidoscope set up the first methadone dispensing service in Nepal, that we supported the first needle syringe exchange in Calcutta and then as a church based project promoted Harm Reduction in South East Asia and Eastern Europe. This work made a difference and was funded by the European Union.
I was delighted to see Kaleidoscope provide real opportunities for people in Cardiff and the Vale through Peer Mentoring. It is amazing that we found over 200 people permanent employment. This initiative was only possible through the European Social Fund.
Of course one could say that if we did not give so much money to the EU this could have been funded via our own Government. The answer is yes I suppose it could have been, but was not. There is a lot of money that the UK spends on employment schemes for example, but the procurement system does not support smaller charities like Kaleidoscope. I know it sounds strange that the massive EU supports the smaller charities but from my experience this is often the case .
Kaleidoscope promotes Internationalism not from a colonial standpoint, but because of what we can learn. The drugs debate is an example of where we learn from Countries such as Uruguay, the Netherlands, Portugal and India how a better approach to drug users can help. This may be through Governments or in the case of India through the inspirational work of agencies such as Sahara. I believe we benefit from the world seeing us as Internationalists which membership of the EU shows.
One of the criticisms of the EU is that the UK is putting more money in than we get out; I actually think this is a positive. A rich person pays more tax but get the same services as a lower tax payer because that money is used to support the more vulnerable in our society. If we want to create a fairer Europe – as a richer country we have a duty to care and support other Nations. So I think it is a strength if we help the poorest people in Eastern and Southern Europe.
Everyone will have different reasons for wanting Brexit or Remain but whatever we do it is vital we keep an open debate and one where certainly we try and listen to each other. There is no doubt both the Remain and Brexit campaigns have tried to frighten people into voting their way but our duty is simply to look at the facts we trust and vote according to our social conscience.
As someone who has been to the Euros, we have enjoyed a footballing celebration of our togetherness. Yes there have been problems with certain sets of fans, but my experience has been one where we have been welcomed by our French hosts and the supporters of the countries we have met have been very warm and open (OK the English have been annoying).
David Vickery (photograped) also took at to Ypres. This is an amazing town which was in the middle of the terrible Trench warfare where over a million people died. Every evening at 8pm those who died are remembered. It is a reminder that we have a shared history with our European Brothers and Sisters which includes war and peace.