Ebola Crisis: we will rise to the challenge

By Catherine Mahony, CAFOD’s Emergency Coordinator for West Africa, who is coordinating our response to the Ebola Crisis in Sierra Leone. Please donate to our Ebola Crisis Appeal>>

Stickers mark houses where Caritas distributed soap and advice in September.I felt more apprehensive about coming to Sierra Leone than I have on most deployments to emergency situations. Not because I’m afraid of catching Ebola – I know that, with the right precautions, the risks are low for someone like me, who won’t be working directly with Ebola patients. What spooked me more was the enormity of the crisis. Forecasts for the coming months vary wildly, but we know that the situation will get worse before it gets better.

I got my cues about life in Freetown as soon as I arrived at the airport. Last year when I was here I was struck by how tactile people were, but now immediately upon greeting someone you notice the flinch: the little shock of restraint as people who are used to hugging and shaking hands hold themselves back.

My first morning was spent driving back and forth to meetings, which gave me a chance to talk to Jacob, CAFOD’s driver. I asked him how things were, and he said they were getting better. I was surprised, and questioned him further, and he said: “Well, better than Liberia.” He’s a pragmatist – he hasn’t seen his family for a month as they are in another district, and he’s told them that they must stay put. “If everyone just stays where they are, soon we’ll see each other again,” he said.

As we drove around, I noticed that the markets were still trading, shops were open and people were milling about. A sure sign that business was not so far from usual was the traffic jams that still snarled up around us. Many buildings were dilapidated, but plants burst through them, and a rogue sheep grazed, while pigs ambled through roadside rubbish dumps. It seemed like life was pushing through all the cracks, however messily. Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, disaster, donate, Sierra Leone

CAFOD’s Pope Paul VI lecture

About the author: Sophie Greeley is a passionate CAFOD supporter who found last year’s Pope Paul VI lecture inspiring and thought-provoking. She tells us why she intends to join us again for this year’s Pope Paul VI event on 7 November.

The Right Reverend John Arnold at last year's lecture

The Right Reverend John Arnold, Chair of CAFOD Trustees and Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, speaking at the Pope Paul VI Lecture last year.

On a cold Friday evening last October, about 400 of us gathered at King’s College in London for CAFOD’s annual Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture. I was drawn to the lecture title: “A billion reasons to believe in Africa – The long march from ‘the hopeless continent’ to the ‘spiritual lung’ of humanity” and was keen to learn what these billion reasons might include.

The speaker Father Orobator warned us against solely seeing Africa’s development in economic times but suggested employing the work of Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen, who says development should be viewed more in terms of people’s quality of life, not just growth in GDP.

Sign up for this year’s Pope Paul VI lecture

This year’s lecture takes place next week, on Friday 7 November. CAFOD has arranged for Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo from the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences to talk on the theme of Climate and Poverty. The topic is a very salient one as we approach 2015 and the Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are to be the successors of the Millennium Development Goals and there is currently much discussion in international agencies and CSOs and NGOs regarding what the specific goals should be. We know climate change is affecting the world in lots of ways and the impact climate change is having on countries of the global south is deeply concerning: it’s causing havoc for many of the world’s poorest people. It’s such an interesting area and important to all of us.

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Filed under CAFOD, Climate Change, UK

Connect2: Brazil is now linking up within Brazil too!

Terezinha - Connect2: Brazil

Terezinha, top right with representatives from MDF, APOIO and Connect2: Brazil

As women have taken the spotlight in Brazil’s Presidential elections, Emily Mulville, CAFOD’s programme officer for Brazil,  shares with you an exciting initiative taking place in the Connect2: Brazil communities, which is helping to strengthen women’s voice and reinforce their community participation. Emily says:

I have just come back from Brazil, where I took part in an urban learning exchange visit to the Amazonian state of Pará with Connect2: Brazil narrator Terezinha and two other local community representatives who work with our partners MDF and APOIO in São Paulo. The visit was an opportunity for our partners to learn from each other and share different strategies and approaches to support poor families in urban areas. CAFOD’s partner in the region, the Church Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), is working in the fast growing migrant urban settlements of Marabá and Tucuruí, working with some of the poorest and most marginalised communities, families, and women, helping to strengthen their confidence, voice and livelihoods. Terezinha and her colleagues shared their own experience of struggling for decent housing in Sao Paulo, and of organising women’s cooperatives, mobilising community members, and developing strategies for action based on their lived reality. This is what Terezinha had to say about it:

Connect2Brazil is now linking up within Brazil too! We feel so blessed and grateful for having had this opportunity for sharing learning and exchanging our experiences, made possible by CAFOD and the Pastoral Land Commission. We came back with our hearts full of welcome and inspired by our new friends and the wonderful men and women we met in the local communities we visited. We met so many courageous women leaders and people who are fighting for a better life for their families and communities, even in the most adverse and violent conditions. They are a beacon of hope for us and for the people. We have been able to share our experiences and how we work here in São Paulo, and also learn from them about their joys, their problems, and also about from the courage and the strength of the women in these settlements. We have also brought back to the women in the favelas of São Paulo some of the rich experiences and inspiration we gained from the commitment and struggle of women in the Amazon. Our women’s cooperative here in São Paulo, Bread and Art, has already got some good suggestions for the women of the Palmares and Bairro da Paz neighbourhoods! We look forward to continuing this learning when our new friends visit São Paulo next year.”

I also wanted to thank all of you who supported our ‘Stand by Brazil’ campaign during the World Cup, we had a fantastic response. Finally, I would like thank you for the lovely messages sent by parishes and schools following the success at Mauá. This solidarity in both the good and the bad times, knowing we are standing side by side, is giving our partners and Connect2: Brazil communities strength and joy to continue their struggle for justice, voice and better living conditions for those who poorest.

To find out more about Connect2: Brazil, and for how your parish can get involved,  visit cafod.org.uk/connect2brazil.

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Filed under Brazil, CAFOD, Connect2, Connect2Brazil

Ebola Crisis: Lessons learnt from working with HIV

By Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo – Caritas Internationalis special advisor on HIV and health

Ebola_hand washing_CAFOD_Caritas_Sierra Leone_Tommy Trenchard_Oct2014

From the moment our plane touched down at Monrovia airport, we were confronted with buckets of bleach water for vigorous hand-washing and people armed with ‘gun thermometers’ to take our temperatures. This was before we could even step into the terminal building.

Fragile health care systems

Once in the city, you can see many hospitals and clinics are closed. Some people die in the streets looking for medical treatment for the Ebola infection. Schools and many government offices are closed. Doctors and nurses are afraid to go back to work. The health care infrastructure in Liberia has been weak for many years and the Ebola epidemic has brought it to its knees.

Donate to our Ebola crisis appeal and help us stop the spread of the disease >>

Liberia desperately needs more units to diagnose and treat Ebola patients. The Catholic Hospital of Saint Joseph in Monrovia was considered one of the best health facilities in the country, but it was closed after the director and eight other staff members died of Ebola. The medical missionaries and the local staff of that hospital gave their lives. They committed to serving patients in the greatest of need, giving what comfort they could, and most of all ensuring dignity when death came. Continue reading

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Filed under CAFOD, Liberia, Sierra Leone

One Climate, One World: Tackle climate change in church, home and garden

Home grown garden produce

Growing your own is one way to become more eco-friendly.

This blog – by John in the Westminster diocese – is the fourth of a weekly series to launch our One Climate, One World campaign. We can all take small steps to better love our neighbours and care for creation – but it’s hard to know where to start! These blogs show how CAFOD supporters and parishes are playing their part – we’d love to hear what you’re doing too in the comments below.

It’s a real challenge to want less in a consumer society where the emphasis is on having more. Climate change is partly a product of spiralling consumption and we need to remember that some of the most valuable things in life are free: loving each other and being loved, enjoying nature and creation in all its glory, being able to weep at the injustices in the world.

Climate change is one such injustice. Some parishioners in our multi-ethnic church, St John Vianney, have first-hand experience of its effects because they come from – or have family in – countries that are feeling its impact, including Bangladesh, Malaysia, the Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Ethiopia, Congo and Kenya. Some are from central and south America.

Tackling climate change at home

As a Livesimply parish, living sustainably is our contribution to tackling this. It includes getting parishioners to recycle more, use low-energy bulbs, turn down the thermostat, support charity shops, use leftovers, consume less and walk more!

More ideas on how you can play your part, save energy and care for creation >>

It can be tricky to see where you need to make changes, so we used online calculators from WWF and the government to measure parishioners’ carbon footprints and figure out how we could shrink them.

The calculator highlights areas such as using low energy light bulbs and loft insulation, and loading the dishwasher when it has a full load and not after every meal. It also prompts you to choose an energy efficient A-rated product when buying a new kitchen appliance. Continue reading

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Filed under CAFOD, CAFOD Westminster, Campaigning, Climate Change, Fairtrade, UK