Having grown up in a small village, it is hardly surprising that my first contact with CAFOD was through my local parish church. Through my church leaflet, I learned that CAFOD was calling for volunteers to act as a parish contact. As someone who wanted to engage more closely with my faith, I felt this would be a great opportunity. So I got in contact with the CAFOD diocesan officer to see how I could help. Just a few weeks later I was preparing to give a two-minute appeal in front of a whole congregation! I was very nervous about talking to a large number of people for what seemed like a very long time.
About the author: James Corrigan is a first year student at the University of Aberystwyth, taking part in supporter and reflection days with CAFOD as well as spreading the word about the work of CAFOD.
But when I learned about the cause I was speaking for, I was inspired to do my upmost. I spoke about Amparo, a mother living in southern Colombia who had lost her home and everything she owned to guerrillas. She sank into depression and had to work 12 hour shifts to feed her family, but with the help of CAFOD’S partner Pastoral Social, she had counselling and food packages. She was eventually able to set up her own business making furniture, becoming self-dependent.
This story steeled my resolve, I now really wanted to help people like Amparo who were just swept under the rug. I knew that the money the parish raised would be instrumental in getting help out to devastated communities. I gave three talks over Lent and thanks to the generosity of my fellow parishioners, was able to send off a cheque to CAFOD for the tidy sum of £426.47. I was so happy to know that the money raised from a small village in the home counties would go on to help another small village thousands of miles away.
Every time I have prepared to give a Fast Day appeal, CAFOD had a lot of help and resources to offer. Parish contacts were invited to a day in Oakwood, north London to talk with other contacts and experienced public speakers and learn about how to improve on talking to a congregation. That, along with a lot of practice in front of a mirror clearly paid off, since the next time I did a Fast Day appeal Knebworth raised £610.33! Soon, it will be time again for the Harvest Fast day appeal. I look forward to learning more about the work still needed to be done around the world and I hope that other parish contacts like me will be able to appeal for more donations than ever before.
As a parish contact, I learned that most people are very interested in what you have to say about the work of CAFOD provided you show a passion for what you are speaking about, after mass and during the days following. People came up to me and asked me questions like “Is that what it’s really like in Colombia?”Or “ Is anyone doing anything about it?” I answer “Yes!” to both questions. I think spreading the message is half the battle, if people know about it, they’ll do something about it.
As well as representing CAFOD in my parish, I have also been to a great conference regarding the government’s overseas development spending. Tea Time for Change was organised by CAFOD and other faith based organisations. There we lobbied over 300 MPs and the then Minister for International Development, Andrew Mitchell. We were there to remind Parliament just across the road from us that even in times of recession, we still strongly want our representatives to keep their promises and help those who need it.
Speakers from all over the world and all over the political spectrum talked about the problems they faced and the solutions proposed. It gave me a renewed sense of can-do attitude. I told my friends and family that our government was going to keep its promise of maintaining foreign aid commitments at 0.7% of Gross National Income.
The newest campaign CAFOD is leading is the Hungry for change campaign, a big campaign lasting well into 2013. It focuses on tackling the fact that 1 in 7 of the world’s people don’t have enough to eat. A Hungry for change conference takes place on Saturday 10 November at Westminster Hall and will be a great venue to meet other campaigners and share ideas.