Step into the Gap: a gap year with a difference


Applications for the CAFOD Gap Year, Step into the Gap, are now open. Julia Corcoran took part in the programme in 2013 /14, and in this blog describes her experience.


Julia (second row, second from right) with her fellow Step into the Gap volunteers in 2013

Two years ago I wrote a reflection on why I was really excited to be travelling to Sierra Leone. In those two years my life has taken a completely different turn and that’s mainly down to my experiences on Step into the Gap.Find out more about Step into the Gap

During my time on the programme my placement was at YMT, (the Youth service for Hexham and Newcastle) running retreats in the Emmaus Youth Village where groups of young people come to take time out, reflect on their lives, realise the impact they have on the world and hopefully the impact God has in their lives. During my time there I had a variety of opportunities to work with young people from leading Morning Prayer, helping to run youth festivals and running workshops, as well as going into schools for assemblies and speaking during Mass in the local parishes and at the Cathedral.

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16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence 2015

Montserrat Fernández, Programme Officer for Central America, has been working against gender-based violence for 22 years. On the first day of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign she shares her thoughts on why violence against women and girls is such an important issue, and what motivated her to act.

My experience of gender-based violence

Montse has been working against gender-based violence for 22 years.

Montse has been working against gender-based violence for 22 years.

I belong to the 35 per cent of women worldwide who have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in our lives. At 20 years old, I was living in Barcelona and studying teaching. One day, while travelling to teach at a primary school, I was raped.

I went to the police station to denounce the attack but there were no police women at that time, in the 80s, in Barcelona. The policeman who took my testimony got red face as I described what had happened. My parents then accompanied me to another police station to look through photos of all rapists in Barcelona, to see if I could recognise my aggressor. He was not in the police photo albums, but my neighbour, the son of one of my parents’ friends, was.

I decided to denounce the attack because I didn’t want the young girls who were going to the primary school to have the kind of bad experience I was facing. Today, in Nicaragua where I work, I know that girls going to school in rural areas are facing similar experiences on the way to school or even inside their schools. Because of this, some girls decide to drop out of school.

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Climate change: The Laudato Si’ challenge

Paul Kelly CAFOD supporter at laudato Si' dayPaul Kelly is a CAFOD supporter in the Lancaster diocese. He will be travelling to Paris in December 2015 as part of a supporter delegation at the time of the UN climate talks.

With the UN Summit on Climate Change due to start in Paris in a week’s time, it couldn’t have been better timing for a CAFOD study day on the Encyclical letter Laudato Si’.

Sign our petition to world leaders in response to Laudato Si’

As a CAFOD supporter, and member of the Lancaster Diocese Faith and Justice Commission Environment Group, I travelled from North-West England for the event, held on Saturday 7 November in Westminster Cathedral Hall.

Journey with us

The opening prayer litany set the tone: “If you are asking questions such as: What is the purpose of my life in this world? What is the goal of my work and all my efforts, then journey with us;” “If you think we were made for love and therefore that gestures of generosity, solidarity and care can well up within us, then journey with us.”

I joined the excited buzz as 100 delegates heard Argentinian theologian Fr Augusto Zampini Davies introduce the Encyclical. Written by Pope Francis earlier this year to all peoples of the world, it felt like the Pope was addressing us personally.

CAFOD supporters celebrating Laudato Si'

So what is Laudato Si’ all about?

Through a mixture of talks and discussion we discovered it’s primarily about justice. The Pope, a scientist himself, joins the vast majority of other scientists in accepting the evidence that humans, especially from rich countries, have created unprecedented global warming by burning fossil fuels.

It is mainly the poor in the less developed world who will suffer the worst consequences. Because the world is the ‘common home’ of all humanity, we have created a huge injustice. I reckon until about 30 years ago I might have been forgiven for not recognising the link between my lifestyle and the poor. Now there is absolutely no excuse.

Responding joyfully

Fr Augusto pointed out that part of the challenge is acknowledging our everyday attitudes. Pope Francis highlights that our environmental and our social problems have the same underlying cause: we have come to see ourselves as “the earth’s lords and masters entitled to plunder it at will, forgetting that we ourselves are formed from it.”

Faced with the enormous challenge of what the Pope calls personal ‘ecological conversion’, it might be easy to feel despondent. But the study day took its cue from the Encyclical itself. It is full of joy and hope.

I came to the study day in the hope of hearing what other individuals and parishes are doing in response to Laudato Si’ and was not disappointed.

My own parish in Lancashire was one of the first to attempt the CAFOD LiveSimply award. We celebrated what we already did to care for our environment and to be in solidarity with the poor. Things like installing energy-efficient lighting, using an electronic newsletter to reduce paper use, supporting CAFOD of course, and praising God for His creation in services at Harvest Time and Easter, and made individual pledges such as reducing water use, having a car-free day, and eating less meat.

I was enormously encouraged on Saturday to meet many other people who had adapted their own lifestyles to live not primitively, but more simply.

Individual action can only take us so far

There’s another dimension that the Pope calls for, and that is change lead by politicians.

He says we must re-look at the way we do things. It is not trading and consuming that is the problem; it’s the way we do them. He doesn’t pull his punches, saying the political response so far has been weak.

Pope Francis wants our political and economic structures to deliver justice for all peoples of the world and to combat the risks of climate change. I want that too because I am certain it is a central part of the good news of the Gospel.

I came away encouraged to continue as an MP correspondent, certain that our mission is to inspire people to the motivation needed for transformation.

I firmly believe we have to give our political leaders the mandate and encouragement to show courageous leadership on this.

I believe and hope that against so many odds it is possible for nations to tackle inequality and join together to care for the future of God’s beautiful creation; it’s our only planet, on which we totally depend, and whose stewardship is entrusted to us.

Faith into action

That’s why I am delighted to also be joining the CAFOD delegation to lobby the UN Climate Summit. At the end of Saturday the 20 Paris delegates met for the first time. We eagerly anticipate standing shoulder to shoulder with people from numerous other countries who believe in putting their faith into action.

As the Pope says: “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?” Please pray for our leaders.

Sign our petition to world leaders in response to Laudato Si’

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CAFOD campaigners meet MPs debating climate change and Laudato Si’

Originally posted on CAFOD Westminster Blog:

Yesterday, CAFOD campaigners met with MPs as they debated climate change in Parliament ahead of the United Nations climate talks at the end of the month. Amy Ashdown, a media volunteer in the Westminster Diocese, describes the day:

CAFOD campaigners meet with MPs MPs join Amy and other CAFOD campaigners in a show of support for our campaign.

On a cold and rainy morning, I joined a group of CAFOD supporters at the Houses of Parliament to witness a debate recognising Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ as an important contribution to the discussion on climate change.

Sign our petition on climate change, inspired by Laudato Si’

The debate, organised by Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland, was attended by about 20 MPs, including representatives from most of the major parties.

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Hands On Kitui: the final countdown

We are now approaching the final stretch of our exciting project here in Kitui, progress has been fantastic up to this point and work is now firmly focused on the main Musosya dam.

We need to clear all of the silt and debris from the reservoir before any more rains come – it’s a real race against time and everyone is working harder than ever to ensure we are ready in time.

Once the Musosya dam is complete we will begin to see a truly transformed Kitui, and it wouldn’t be happening without your kind support – thanks you so much, please do keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

P.S. If you’re looking for ethical Christmas presents, our range of great World Gifts transform the lives of people living in poverty, as well as giving your loved one a beautiful card to open on Christmas morning.

Progress and project highlights this month

Did you know?

Our new community farm will produce kale, spinach, tomatoes, coriander and onions. We’re building a strong fence around it to keep goats and other animals out!

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