Tony Houghton on Charity and Retirement


“Are you retired, Tony?”

“Well, put it this way, I am still very busy: it’s just that nobody actually pays me a salary for what I do!”


Volunteering for the organisation, ROPE, I have heard all the puns:

“How did you get tied up with them?”, “Did they string you along?” “Is a volunteer someone who is knot paid?” “If you hang around long enough I’m sure they’ll rope you in for other tasks.”

ROPE is a small Christian development charity helping the poorest to help themselves out of their poverty and give dignity and hope in almost thirty countries with nearly fifty projects. I started volunteering some of my time in 2002 and have continued to serve as a Director and Trustee in the last 8 years. It is so easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the suffering in the least well off corners of the world. Don’t get numbed into doing nothing. You might not be able to change the direction of a country but you can bring hope one life at a time. At ROPE  we promise that 100% of the funds donated to the charity will reach the projects overseas. Volunteers like me keep admin costs lower and there is a separate fund to cover the UK running expenses.

As well as the work on the Board of Directors, my wife, Heather, and I have gone out to different churches, exhibitions, events and organisations to explain the work of ROPE. We have travelled as far north as Pontefract (of liquorice fame) and across southern England. What a privilege to teach, attend exhibition stands and bring especially composed songs in upward of 50 locations. It’s not what I say: it is the power of imagery that touches hearts.

Mass media these days lurches from one giant natural disaster or catastrophe to another, stimulating explosive generosity and the challenge of dispersing such large sums. In the meantime, the small tycoon in the Philippines, the local flood in Bangladesh, the mudslide in Columbia or lack of medical care in the village or education for girls in the remote mountain, goes unnoticed as the media circus moves on. God has a heart for widows and orphans and He calls us to do what we can (“look after orphans and widows in their distress,” [James 1v27]).

When I started my other voluntary job I had to pay for bus fares to get me there. Reaching the redoubtable age of eligibility for a senior’s bus pass, my weekly trip to VIVA in Oxford no longer costs. However, that means leaving after 9am and arriving, at what seems to me half way through the day at 10:30am, or later. Cause for me to quip one day on arrival, “Good afternoon all!”


VIVA is another Christian aid charity: in their case with a focus on children at risk, especially street children. The special modus operandi of VIVA is to get churches and other organisations in a city to work together in a network and to equip local volunteers to address the problems that lead to children ending up on the streets or otherwise subject to the risk of abuse or being disadvantaged.

My voluntary contribution has been two-pronged: helping market communication and assisting with grant applications to government, agencies, trusts and foundations. With some of VIVA’s work in Latin America, I have been able to use my Spanish to help with translation.

Interestingly the word ‘retirement’ doesn’t feature in the Bible, neither does ‘pension’.

“Are you retired, Tony?”

“Well as far as I can see there is no retirement from God’s work, love in action should last a lifetime.”

Tony Houghton’s book Rabbits, Risk & Reward is available now. Read about Tony’s life in business and faith and his battle to make these two important parts of his life coexist. Rabbits… is available here.