Are you long or short-sighted? For me the time has come, all too soon, to visit the opticians, my minor short-sightedness worsening over the last couple of years.

Many of us at some point in our lives will need extra support – to read small print up close or to sharpen the image in the cinema. And if you’ve ever put on a pair of glasses with the wrong prescription (like when I tried my son’s long-sighted specs) you’ll know the disorientation this brings – with a blurred vision that can remain for some time even after you’ve taken the glasses off.

It’s hard to try and see far away and close up at the same time.

Having worked in the voluntary sector for over twenty years I’ve often recognised a subtle competition between those whose vision stretches to the furthermost corners of the earth to those who work passionately through a lens marked ‘local’.

Over the last decade the ‘global camp’ has benefited from the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), increasingly known as the ‘most successful global anti-poverty push in history’. This shared 8-point vision has helped to:
•    halve extreme poverty
•    get more girls in school
•    ensure fewer children are dying
•    continue to fight killer diseases such as malaria and AIDS

As an MDG Momentum campaign gathers pace alongside an ambitious post-2015 development agenda many in the ‘local camp’ are asking for similar attention and funding from politicians, the media and business to address issues such as:
•    continued family fragmentation
•    urgent need for fostering and adoption
•    increased debt and child poverty
•    prevention of abuse, trafficking and exploitation

Whilst extreme poverty might be far away, if we were to open our eyes wide, we would see significant vulnerability on our own doorsteps – a reality much closer to home than many of us ever realised or thought possible.

Viva’s global vision is to see children safe, well and fulfilling their God-given potential. In the last year we have lived in the shadow of the Bullfinch trafficking case affecting vulnerable young girls only a few streets around the corner from our Oxford office.

We have felt compelled to ask what aspects of our global experience of collaborative action could be appropriately shared within the UK, without duplicating excellent work already taking place. Our response has been twofold:

1.    To start where we are, mapping the situation of children and vulnerable families across Oxfordshire and discovering the current response of the local church.

2.    To run a Viva Doorsteps Conference in Oxford on 27 September (in partnership with other organisations) to present the research to church leaders, children’s, youth and family workers, safeguarding officers and leaders of local organisations.

Nelson Mandela said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Perhaps it’s sometimes easier to respond to needs that are far away rather than engage with the complexity of our own local situations. Why? Partly because they challenge us to face problems that many are not even prepared to admit exist – yet.

But that’s just like me putting off going to the optician even if I only have a peripheral sense of the problem. It only leads to continued short-sightedness and the potential to miss the situations much closer to home that so desperately need our response.

Time to book that appointment…

* To find out more about Viva’s Doorsteps initiative go to: viva.org/doorsteps.