Who We Are
Sunderland Connect Network was launched in 2015 and became a registered charity in 2018, but to understand the journey, we need to go back…
Sometime in 2008
At Church one Saturday morning, Deb Fozzard, Founder and Director of Sunderland Connect Network, was impacted by the message the Pastor was sharing: blessing others with what we have. Turning to God, Deb asked “God show me who I can bless”. Less than a week later, the answer came when a friend asked if Deb could find a home for a bail of towels. She took them along to a local Salvation Army hostel and was, to her surprise, invited back to share about her faith with the residents; 65 men. Deb, along with her husband Colin, became frequent visitors to the hostel, positively impacting the residents with testimonies and messages of faith, so much so that one of men gave his life to Jesus and was set free from addiction. These visits gave Colin and Deb an insight into the lives of people living on the margins of society, the broken and the vulnerable. Unfortunately, they didn’t recognise their own vulnerability and were taken advantage of by the very people they were trying to help. Though painful at the time, this led them to access training resulting in full time employment for Deb working for a Christian charity working with the homeless.
Fast forward to 2014 when, after many years of working with the marginalised, Deb became frustrated. The needs of the homeless people Deb supported were complex; addiction, relationships, poverty, domestic abuse to name a few. Deb’s heart was set on seeing lives transformed; spiritually, socially, and mentally. The needs were too much for any one Church or organisation, this would require an army.
Dreaming of a better way, Deb began writing down her thoughts and the things that God was communicating to her, leading to a vision of unity across the city, for the city. Through various connections, she was invited to share her vision with a group of Church leaders who prayed together. Embracing the idea, some of the leaders came together to form a steering team, aiming to turn Deb’s dream into a reality.
On the 8th June 2015 the Churches, Council and the Police in Sunderland were invited to an event to showcase the results of a city-wide faith audit carried out by the newly formed steering team http://www.cinnamonnetwork.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/22499-CFAAR-16pp-Sunderland-FINAL-AW_lr.pdf
The audit provided evidence that churches were engaged in their communities and had a deep desire to see community transformation. 74% of Churches wanted a closer relationship with other organisations and were seeking ways to be more effective and integrated.
It was at this same event that Deb’s dream was shared. The response was such that, by September 2015, Deb was appointed Director for 25 hour per week and Sunderland Connect Network was born.
Connect Network began to facilitate events, Connect Conversations and training for the Churches and were delighted when the first Christmas outreach celebration, Ha’Way in a Manger, saw participation from Churches from every denomination.
Sunderland Foodbank began as a Connect Conversation; it continues to grow and plays an instrumental role in the city to this day.
The Church leaders who prayed together became part of the Network and became known as Leaders Connect. The group has since developed a steering team which now host weekly prayer, lunches and events for other Church and Christian charity leaders. https://www.connectnetwork.uk/leaders-connect
Believe in Sunderland
This has become the flagship event for Connect Network; inviting the Churches together to celebrate and showcase the work of the Churches across the city. The event attracts not just the Churches but people from the Council, Schools, Police, and voluntary groups.
You can see more on our ‘What we do’ page to find out about our current projects.