What will I remember of 2009?

When the year draws to an end, editors of the world compete in an effort to sum up the past twelve months in the brashest colours to attract readers’ attention. With a new decade looming, the exercise leads to a tenfold production of Top 10s, from silliest video to mankind’s greatest invention of the last ten years.

Giving into the feverish trend, or simply responding to what is a natural reflective period, I could not help but look back on my past year at CAFOD. Totally subjective, partially representative, hopefully informative, this Top 10 is a snapshot of what went on in the mind of a (somewhat geeky) UK-based CAFOD member of staff in 2009.

10- The economic downturn. Falling exchange rate, staff cuts, reduced giving are some of the challenges that CAFOD had to face as an overseas charity, and we all felt the pinch.

9- CAFOD finally goes on Twitter. Twice.

8- A disturbing trend: land-grabbing for western consumption. An issue that CAFOD tackled directly in a number of countries including Mozambique

7- Barcamp Africa: I wondered whether getting up on a Saturday morning to discuss ICT4D was a good idea: within fifteen minutes, I knew I was meeting some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs of the year.

6- A pack for mums and babies: or the success story of four schoolgirls from Bradford who had an idea to combat maternal mortality overseas.

5- The fruit of a team effort, from Marketing to IT, Design, Supporter Services, New Media, from Mumbai to London, the new-look Worldgifts website was finally launched in September 2009. A surprise appearance at number 5? Not if you have spent so many hours of your working week on it!

4- As film posters are invariably adorned with a “Four star- Best Movie of the Year!!!!” quote from a lowlife celebrity mag, it is not unlikely that you have become immune to heartfelt recommendations. I can only try and shake the apathy by encouraging you to see the most thought-provoking, courageous, heart-wrenching and powerful documentary I have come across in 2009, or actually, ever. “Enjoy Poverty” is a 90 minute piece by Dutch artist Renzo Martens. Filmed over three years in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is an uncompromising view of the relationship between poverty, media and the perpetuation of the status quo. People left the room in outrage, others applauded with a lump in their throats. Which will you be?

3- Cloud computing. Love it or hate it, cloud computing has entered the realms of your homes, SMEs and multinationals. CAFOD is one of many NGOs which embraced the technology in 2009, exchanging notes with fellow Caritas organisation Trocaire, and putting it in a solid position to seize opportunities early and manage challenges ahead of the game. Trust a geek, if you sometimes feel technology is the enemy, keep it close!

2- Climate Change. When CAFOD started campaigning on the issue at the beginning of the year, many questions were raised about its relevance to CAFOD’s core remit of international development. In spite of a disappointing result in Copenhagen, the run-up to the summit has led to unprecedented media coverage on how climate change was affecting poorer nations. Hopefully next time efforts will shift from “ifs” to “hows”.

1- When you think holidays, Devon or France may spring to mind. Working at CAFOD, I somehow gave the globe a twirl and settled on Mozambique. My decision had less to do with the fact that the Guardian has identified the country as a “destination of the decade” than the opportunity I was given to visit a CAFOD project and meet CAFOD partners near the Mozambican capital of Maputo.

Meeting the Congregation of the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (or CONFHIC in short) in Mumemo was an unforgettable experience: clashing clichés and images, from the jovial Sisters somehow managing herculean tasks on a daily basis with the modesty and sternness often encountered on hospital wards, to a typical white-European delight at watching children dance.

I quickly learned to hear and see what was truly amazing: the story of a community built from nothing but sand and good-will, of women and men who stared death in the face and carried on with the strength of forgiveness, of mothers and fathers whose first thought was to secure the future of their children through education, of CAFOD supporters who knew so little how their contributions had shaped this corner of the world, so far from theirs.

Thank you to Fauna Ibramogy for arranging the visit; Irma Susana and the whole congregation for their hospitality; Alfredo and Anthonio for tirelessly taking me around, and Joca Faria for his time and beautiful pictures.

And here’s to sharing my #1 with you, in images.

Posted by Laurence Bascle, CAFOD new media project manager

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Filed under CAFOD, DR Congo, Mozambique

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