TODAY is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, traditionally a time of self-examination, penitence, self-denial, study, and preparation for Easter.

But given that this Lent begins in a time of lockdown and in a year when so much has been marked by being denied the opportunity to do so many of the normal things we take for granted, what does Lent observance look like in 2021 – in such a time as this?

One of the other aspects of Lent usually honoured over these six weeks before Easter is that of “alms giving” – traditionally giving money to the poor, or, alternatively, to what we might now call good causes.

For many regular churchgoers, the impact of Covid on church finances means that their own churches (such as our own) will be asking their congregants to consider making extra one-off donations to the church this year as the cumulative impact of being unable to hire out buildings or take collections finally begins to bite.

However, one couple in Somerset have come up with an ingenious idea of being able to donate to a cause close to all hearts this year. Rowan Patterson and her husband Scott, a vicar in Curry Rivel in Somerset, have launched a campaign called “twin my vaccine” to help raise funds for communities across the world which are struggling to vaccinate their population against Covid 19 and whose infrastructure may not even include basic refrigeration.

According to UNICEF, two doses of vaccine – depending on which kind you receive – might be worth between £4 and £30, plus the time and expertise needed to administer it.

For those of us who could have afforded to pay this ourselves, the idea is to donate to support the delivery of vaccines to people in other countries who do not have access to the NHS.

The couple set up a JustGiving page to direct funds to UNICEF’s COVAX programme. With an original target of £1,000, the couple have already raised almost £20,000 with the campaign being supported by their local community and schools.

It’s very easy to donate – simply search for “twin my vaccine” and “just giving”.

The successful roll out of the vaccination programme has been a literal shot in the arm in the battle against Covid. With so many of our parents and friends now having received their first injection, or being contacted with arrangements for it to happen, we have much to be thankful for.

As the Covid fog begins to clear, our thoughts will naturally turn to the “new normal” of the post-Covid landscape. As we turn our faces to Easter and its message of new life and hope, there can be few better ways of directing our giving than ensuring that the gift of life is sustained in those places without an NHS.

So this Lent please do consider giving the gift of hope and life through giving the vaccine and joining the global battle against Covid.

Reverend Arun Arora is the vicar of St Nicholas’ church in Durham