CAFOD’s Vicky Ahmed takes a trip to Leeds on World Food Day to find out about a Hunger Cloth and what it means to the children across the diocese.
Before World Food Day on 16 October I had little idea of what a hunger cloth was, and what it was used for in modern times. I knew they had traditionally been used to communicate stories of the Gospel, but it wasn’t until last Tuesday, on a wet afternoon at St Anne’s Cathedral in Leeds that I looked at one and understood the symbolism and recognised the message of hope.
I joined about 220 children who had come together from different schools across the diocese to join in with a special service. Our CAFOD Leeds office had invited schools in the diocese to help mark CAFOD’s commitment to end poverty and make sure every child has enough to eat, by helping create a ‘Diocese of Leeds Hunger cloth.’
The service included reflections on the food that God has provided for all, from pupils at St Joseph’s in Keighley doing a thoughtful mime to the Gospel story of the Feeding of the 5,000, to English Martyrs in Wakefield taking to the altar, dancing to the Song of Creation.
Children from various schools then told the story of Gift, a nine-year-old boy from Zambia who used to live on pumpkin leaves when times were tough and the harvest had failed. With no way to make money and little food the future was worrying for the whole family.
Now his family have food for today and hope for the future, thanks to CAFOD working with partners to provide tools and seeds so that his family could set up a vegetable garden, cows to help plough the land and provide milk, and water and an irrigation system so that they can grow vegetables all year round.
The children asked us to keep children like Gift in our thoughts this World Food Day, and went on to tell the story of other children around the world who have struggled to have enough to eat such as Kabery from Bangladesh who suffered because of floods in her village. They presented huge pictures of Kabery, Gift and other children at the altar and lit candles and asked us all to keep a place at our table for them.
Presentation of the Hunger Cloth
The Hunger Cloth was presented at the end of the service. Each 20cm square of cloth represented the message of sharing God’s gifts. As we begin the Year of Faith we are reminded to think of others and to live out our faith in acts of justice and love – and this piece of cloth showed children’s desires to do exactly that: to share the harvest, to share the abundance that God has given, and the many different designs from different schools, painted, stitched and glittering, showed stories and symbols, messages of hope. It really is a beautiful piece of cloth, and one of the readings from the children explained:
“The design we made separately has been joined together and has brought us here today, to this moment when, though we come from many schools, we are one. It is a symbol for us that we want to be just one world.”
In our world today, 1 in 8 people will go to bed hungry. Listening to the children tell the stories of these children around the world I began to put some faces to the 868 million people. The stories that were shared were different, but the facts remain. The message of these children: Let us share the harvest – ultimately CAFOD is working to help people be able to provide for themselves, to have food for today and hope for the future.
Help people in poor communities have enough to eat – check out our new World Gifts for food range; the Vegetable Garden for just £10, Chickens for £20 or a Cow for £100.