Author Archives: claudmba

Digging deep for CAFOD: fighting hunger one garden at a time

Sophie Harrington is CAFOD’s Diocesan Communications Officer for East Anglia. She joined Christine Walkden, Patrick Jamiru and a host of keen young gardeners for a day of digging deep in support of CAFOD’s Lent appeal.

It’s not every day you meet up with a TV gardener, some schoolchildren and an African charity worker to fight global hunger.

Clutching some cabbage seeds, we did just that at St Laurence’s Catholic Primary School in Cambridge to highlight CAFOD’s Dig Deep Lenten appeal.

The appeal reminds us that one in eight people in the world go hungry every day – but we CAN help.

The One Show’s gardening guru Christine Walkden shared her passion for plants with the children aged five to nine years old in the newly-formed gardening group.

She showed them exactly how to plant those cabbage seeds so they do the best they can.

Her visit coincided with that of CAFOD partner Patrick Jamiru from Sierra Leone, who came to the school to explain how – with their support to CAFOD – people in his region have transformed an abandoned diamond mine in fertile farmland. It’s helping people to overcome the hungry season in his country, which sees people struggle to find enough food for up to six months of the year.

Mohammed's community have turned swamp land into farmland to help get through the hungry season.

Mohammed’s community have turned swamp land into farmland to help get through the hungry season.

Patrick encouraged the children to ‘dig deep’ with people in his own country and think how they can help the world’s poorest people.

He told them: “The land had been mined for diamonds in Sierra Leone and once they were not finding any, they went and left big holes with water in. They dug big, big holes and they had not filled their holes, they just left them like that.

“Our land is our mainstay and how we get our livelihood. To change it so that people could farm for themselves has helped them so much.”

He told the Cambridge pupils how children he knows, called Mohammed and Samai, have had their lives improved by the project. Even having the prospect of being able to attend school becoming a reality for them.

The children listened keenly and had a host of questions for both Patrick and Christine.

Christine told the young gardeners: “Without gardeners and farmers we would starve. It’s the gardeners and the farmers of the world that keep us alive. They also make the world beautiful. A gardener can make the world beautiful and grow food and what a privilege that is.”

Pupils at St Laurence's Catholic Primary School in Cambridge Dig Deep with help from TV presenter & gardener Christine Walkden to highlight global hunger.

Pupils at St Laurence’s Catholic Primary School in Cambridge Dig Deep with help from TV presenter & gardener Christine Walkden to highlight global hunger. [CAFOD]

She added: “Growing plants is the same as growing people. What it requires is tender loving care. Without it neither will grow, develop and bloom.

“The children here today were very interested, very engaged and enquiring. It’s important that children know in this country how to grow food. We take so much for granted. It’s important for children to realise that there are places in the world where people do not have enough food to live.”

Teacher Barbara Quail said the visitors had both inspired her and the children.

Mrs Quail said: “We are the opposite to the children in Sierra Leone in some ways. We have enough food grown and we are now trying to help the children redevelop those skills that they have lost because the supermarkets sell everything they need. They should know where their food comes from and how lucky they are. How they can help others who are not so fortunate has been really brought to life to them.”

CAFOD volunteer, Mary Watkins, said: “I think it is an excellent project. It’s very exciting for the children to be involved in and important for them to learn where their fundraising goes. Patrick has been able to tell them first-hand.”

“I have helped at the school with CAFOD for about seven years and I know this is an experience the children will remember. It always amazes me what they remember from previous visits when we have told them about CAFOD’s work.”

Hopefully some seeds for thought were also planted that day.

The event brought press attention with Cambridge News and BBC Cambridgeshire Radio attending and playing a part in highlighting the scandal of global hunger.

We can all Dig Deep this Lent – please join us today>>

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Exploring Kenema: How Lent Fast Day can change the face of a community

Tomorrow is Lent Fast Day. This year CAFOD is asking you to dig deep for children and families around the world who don’t have enough to eat – children like Mohammed and Samai in Kenema, Sierra Leone.

 Eleanor, one of our gap year volunteers travelled to Sierra Leone, and spent three days with the community of Tissor, where Mohammed and Samai are from. She saw first-hand how your money is helping.

Find out more about how you’re helping in Sierra Leone. Please dig deep with CAFOD this Lent>>

We began our stay here on Sunday when we went to mass at St Paul’s Cathedral looking amazing wearing our freshly made African outfits. The whole Catholic community make a real effort to dress up in traditional costume for mass so we thought that we would join in the culture and wear ours! They’re amazingly comfortable, and I’m going to be really tempted to live in it when I’m back in the UK.

Eleanor with Samai and his classmates

Eleanor with Samai and his classmates

The bulk of our week was taken up with our 3-day visit to the rural community of Tissor, just outside Kenema. CAFOD is helping people make a living in this area by giving the community the know-how and financial support to set up a poultry farm and a fishpond.

It was incredible to see how CAFOD’s support has helped. Although not fully functional yet, it is clear that the project is already really affecting the lives of the community in a very positive way. Albert is the community officer of the poultry farm and says the project, which provides eggs and a source of income for the people of Tissor, has given him a real sense of purpose and helped him to afford to send his children to school. He is really appreciative of CAFOD’s support, and we all hope to see this success copied throughout communities in Sierra Leone.

 CAFOD is accepting applications for next year’s Step into the gap programme. Find out more and apply today>>

After a sad farewell (particularly from the children!) from the village of Tissor, we headed back to Kenema city.

It has been a real eye-opener to be invited into this wonderful, flourishing community. Aside from enjoying spending time with some amazing and inspirational people, I have had a chance to see just some of the huge impacts that CAFOD is having on people’s lives and how support from the UK is really making a difference.

Please Dig Deep with CAFOD this Lent to help people in Sierra Leone and around the world to a better future.

Please Dig Deep with CAFOD this Lent to help people in Sierra Leone and around the world to a better future.

Your donations really do make a difference in the lives of the world’s poorest people. Please dig deep with us this Lent, so more families and communities can have hope for the future>>

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International Women’s Day: A call for solidarity

Leila el Ali, Director of CAFOD’s partner Association Najdeh

Leila el Ali

Leila el Ali is very proud to be Director of CAFOD’s partner Association Najdeh, the first women’s NGO working within the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon. We caught up with her on International Women’s Day.

I am inspired by Palestinian women in refugee camps in Lebanon. They have daily social and economic challenges: they have been refugees living in camps for 64 years; they do not have political representation and face discrimination at all levels.

But they are strong, managing violence in the private and public spheres. They manage to keep going.

2014 is the UN Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. We need solidarity with these women. Without solidarity we cannot achieve anything in women’s rights.

On International Women’s Day, please stand with women and girls around the world. Visit our Lent calendar for thoughts and reflections today and throughout Lent >>

Association Najdeh has just finished a 3-year Empowerment, Employment and Advocacy Programme.  With CAFOD’s funding and guidance, we were able to ensure more women get access to appropriate training and  to employment as well as confronting traditional views in the community which often prevent women working, condone violence against women and deny them access to decision-making positions.

Women around the world are facing discrimination and violence, and women are paying more for the global economic crisis. We need to reach a point where all women, particularly Palestinian women, reach full citizenship and equality, where militarisation ends in the Middle East, and where the occupation of Palestine ends so that we can achieve peace and women’s rights.

Women need global solidarity with each other to have one voice and one message: there is no democracy without women’s rights; there can be no women’s rights where we have militarisation and occupation.

The Empowerment, Employment and Advocacy Programme has seen some great successes so far, and we continue to work for a better future for the women we help.

Women’s equality has made positive gains but the world is still unequal. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action.

CAFOD works to uphold the rights of women and girls around the world. Please help us support vital organisations like Association Najdeh. Donate>>

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The Oscars shine a light on the millions still denied effective HIV treatment

Georgia BurfordGeorgia Burford is CAFOD’s  HIV and AIDS Manager. Here she shares her thoughts on the lessons we can learn from the recent Oscars success of the film Dallas Buyers Club 

The Oscars won by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are tributes to their brilliant, occasionally comic, eventually harrowing performances in Dallas Buyers Club. But as Leto’s acceptance speech acknowledged, the awards are also about America coming to terms with a dark injustice in its recent history, one which finds echoes all over the developing world today.

It seems abhorrent that people affected by HIV would have to form underground buyers clubs simply to get access to the most basic of drugs that would help to prolong their lives. But that is not just how things were in 1980s Texas, it is still the reality for tens of millions of people living with HIV. And the reasons are the same: the stigma and prejudice attached to HIV – so perfectly portrayed and then suffered by McConaughey’s character – remains a huge challenge in many countries across the world, preventing individuals seeking or receiving help just when they need it most.

As a result, Buyers Clubs still exist in many of those countries, requiring the people leading them to risk penalties and punishment in order to provide access to essential drugs. Jay Chin, an activist from China coordinates the SALT campaign – Securing Access to Lifesaving Treatment – which grew from the simple Buyers Club he set up to access generic medicines that were not available in China, taking huge risks in the process.

But even in countries where drugs are provided to HIV patients, the battle remains – just as in 1980s Texas – to ensure they are the right drugs, provided early enough.

HIV candles

Price reductions on generic drug production are crucial if we are to meet this challenge. We can’t afford for already over-stretched healthcare systems in developing countries having to turn people away simply because drug treatment is prohibitively expensive.

CAFOD and our local partners overseas are working hard to increase access to quality HIV treatment. For example, in Cambodia, we have been supporting the local HIV and AIDS Coordinating Committee, which found that many people were being given expired or almost expired drugs. As a result of our joint campaigning, this was brought to the attention of the Global Fund – the UN body set up to fight TB, AIDS and Malaria – and they successfully put pressure on the Cambodian government to strengthen their procurement systems, and change their suppliers. Patients already given the expired medication were supplied with new drugs.

However, though stigma and access to affordable drugs remain major challenges, other complex problems persist which are simply the product of poverty. In parts of East Africa, for example, lack of health clinics mean that many people find out they are HIV positive too late for effective treatment; the equipment needed to monitor progress made on the drugs is not available; thousands of people simply cannot afford to get to the city hospital to collect the drugs, and if they do get there, staff shortages mean waiting times are too long.

This is where the role of local churches in vital. On the face of it, a group of nuns working in a remote village or a sprawling slum in Kenya may not appear to have much in common with Matthew McConaughey’s character, but much of the work they are carrying out is the same; the nuns have the authority, resources and reach to tackle stigma in communities and get support to those who need it most.

The UN has recognised that the work of local church groups in these poorer communities has been crucial in fitting together this complex jigsaw of access to quality healthcare. In Rome, last month, the network of Catholic aid agencies – Caritas Internationalis – met with the UN to discuss how to strengthen and support the role of faith based organisations to help meet their target to reach at least 15 million people living with HIV with antiretroviral treatment by 2015.

Dr Luiz Loures, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, said at the meeting:

“The faith communities have the scale and the means to move us forward. You care about dignity of the person – and it is only this unique combination of access to drugs and dignity that can provide the necessary drive to reach the end of AIDS.”

Since the start of the epidemic, as Jared Leto said last night, 36 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses, and – while it remains a condition that can affect anyone – it is the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world who are most likely to live with it and die from it for lack of basic treatment. We must tackle that injustice, and ensure the film Dallas Buyers Club stands as a fitting testament to the past; not a mirror on the present for many of the world’s poor.

Find out more about CAFOD’s work on HIV>>

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Digging deep for the world’s poorest people: witnessing the charity of Christ

Patrick Gbessay Jamiru has been Director of CAFOD’s partner Caritas Kenema, for over thirteen years. Caritas Kenema is the development and relief office for the Catholic Diocese of Kenema in eastern Sierra Leone.

Patrick is visiting the UK in the run-up to Lent, to talk to CAFOD supporters about the work of Caritas in Kenema and how, with your donations, they can help poor families to earn a living now and in the future.

Jesus Christ is our model and so we take seriously into account  all those values he set before us, which he himself had demonstrated.  Among them is that of charity.

Charity, from the point of view of the Christian faith, is not just giving handouts from the surpluses we have, but it is the ability to share our life with those of our brothers and sisters who are less privileged and cannot stand on their own.

Please join CAFOD to help those who are unable to stand on their own. Please dig deep this Lent>>

Please Dig Deep with CAFOD this Lent to help people in Sierra Leone and around the world to a better future.

Please Dig Deep with CAFOD this Lent to help people in Sierra Leone and around the world to a better future.

Those who find themselves in certain situations either by design or by accident need some intervention.  For example, those struck down by sicknesses, natural disasters, or those whose societies have deprived them of their basic human rights.

Jesus said to his people that he was not there for the virtuous but for those who were of the lost house of Israel; that those who were well did not need a doctor but those who were sick.   He was making reference to the reality our basic Christian principle wants us to pay attention to: that of care and concern for our brothers and sisters who are in dire need.

Some people may say we were all created by God with equal opportunities; therefore, for some it is due to laziness, or for some it is due to carelessness and so we must not care for others.  But in my estimation, our focus must be on those realities that dehumanize our brothers and sisters; those realities which make us agents of our Lord and not judges of their unfortunate situations.

Every Christian is charged with the responsibility of imitating our Lord Jesus and help in his or her own way in the spread of the Gospel and the Gospel values.  It can be education or support to those in hopeless situations.

The social teachings of the church can and should be lived out in diverse ways. The relief and development work of the CARITAS Kenema office in Eastern Sierra Leone helps mostly the poorest of the poor.

It is by sharing all of what life brings and helping people to live a full life demands, we are witnessing the charity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We want to create a world where all people can flourish. Will you dig deep this Lent to give the world’s poorest people a better future?>>

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