Leading article: A time for inspiration

The strong point of newspapers lies in keeping their readers informed about significant, dramatic and important events.

What we are less good at is reporting on chronic rumbling situations that ought to scar the world's conscience but never seem to constitute news, because things are the same today as they were yesterday and are likely to be tomorrow.

Each year, we attempt to rectify that with our Christmas appeal in which we choose three charities and report on their day-to-day work among some of the world's most vulnerable communities. It is a salutary reminder that some of the most remarkable and resilient people are leading their lives in almost unimaginably difficult conditions. More positively, perhaps, the appeal reminds us that there are people whose lives are unspectacularly dedicated to standing alongside those vulnerable people and assisting them to take greater control of their lives. This year our three charities will, we hope, offer some particular insights on how that is done.

Peace Direct backs local initiatives to lessen tension in war zones like Afghanistan and in areas that are still recovering from conflict, such as Sri Lanka. It works also to pre-empt problems, for example, by negotiating between a major oil company and disquieted people in southern Sudan, who fear the impact of the company's arrival in their midst. It supports extraordinarily brave individuals like Henri Bura Ladyi who, as we report today, has personally persuaded numerous Congolese militiamen to give up their child hostages in exchange for goats.

ComputerAid International takes one of the major waste products of our throwaway society and refurbishes them for despatch to countries in the developing world. There, our last generation PCs are helping to revolutionise the lives of farmers, meteorologists, early warning disaster experts and a new generation of African schoolchildren and students.

ActionAid specialises in community development in the more than 40 countries in which it works. It is seeking to help groups of local people build skills and develop the confidence to take greater control of their lives, in circumstances which vary from women fighting traditional circumcision practices in Africa to creating a bank for homeless people in Delhi.

We hope that our reports will prompt you to give generously. We also hope that you will be inspired, for we could all do with a little inspiration.