Category Archives: CAFOD Birmingham

Xtreme Fun in the Sun at Alton Castle

At the end of July, Amy Fox, CAFOD Diocesan Officer (Youth) and Emily Heaven, youth volunteer, were excited to be invited to take part in Xtreme Adventure, a brand new Catholic youth summer camp held at Alton Castle.

The camp, run in association with the Life Teen movement, was a unique opportunity for young people from across the Birmingham Archdiocese to come together to experience faith, fun and adventure.

We visited at the start of the week, on a morning of glorious sunshine after all the weeks of rain, and found the young people engrossed in a Bible study workshop on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. This was followed by two sessions of free time, during which the group could choose from a selection of activities and workshops, from arts and crafts to frisbee on the lawn.

An enthusiastic group gathered at the top of the Castle’s Discovery Centre for a trip around the world to some of the countries where CAFOD works. We got to know each other with a game of Jambo, one of CAFOD’s Sports Icebreakers, inspired by St. John’s Sports Society in the Kenyan slum of Korogocho. Next, a game of Global Connections got us thinking about the huge number of links between ourselves and people from different countries and cultures around the world.

The group then had the chance to take on the characters of young people living in some of the countries where CAFOD works, for the World Values Auction. The characters – from Kenya, Nigeria, Cambodia, Honduras and the UK – were each given a differing sum of money based on their country’s GDP and given an opportunity to bid for a selection of items – from seeds and agricultural tools to an MP3 player. For most of the characters, even basic essentials like access to clean water were hopelessly out of reach… but Jonathan from the UK found he was able to purchase everything he wanted (and some things he didn’t) at knock-down prices, while still having piles of notes left over.

For the second session, we moved outside into the sunshine and spread our hope mural, inspired by a peace mural created by the CAFOD-supported Association for the Victims of Violence in Colombia and begun at the Exult worship event, on the lawn. To the tune of Kenyan hip-hop exploring issues of peace and justice, a crowd of young people gathered round to add their own symbols of hope to the mural. Inspired by Matthew 5:16: ‘You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before others’, the young people thought about the things that gave them hope. One young person drew some musical notes and another painted a symbol of friendship. We hope the mural will continue to grow as more symbols of hope are added at future events.


Some of the symbols of hope on our giant mural.

We left just in time to avoid the giant mud fight which, we were told, was planned for the afternoon! We hope (and have no doubt) that the group continued to have an amazing, adventurous week that enabled them to grow in their faith and develop lasting friendships. Thank you to Anna Howard and BCYS for inviting us and being so welcoming.

If you’re a youth leader in the Birmingham Diocese and would like to inspire your young people to put their faith into action by engaging in global justice, we can provide advice, resources, training or even tailor-made sessions. Please get in touch with Amy on 01922 722944 or e-mail

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Pass It On at Exult

The summer holidays got off to a prayerful start in the Birmingham Archdiocese with Exult, a brand new worship event organised by young people for young people and held at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Birmingham.

Following a joyful, unifying morning of praise and worship, lunchtime came with an opportunity to pass messages of peace to those living in conflict by taking part in CAFOD’s Olympic solidarity action, Pass It On.

At the early Olympic Games, a 100-day truce was declared to enable atheletes to travel safely. Pass It On revives this tradition with a giant online relay, passing on messages of peace to people around the world who are living in conflict during 2012, and those who are working to bring peace to their communities.

These are people like César López from Colombia. César is a member of the Battalion of Immediate Artistic Reaction, a group of musicians and activists seeking alternatives to violence in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. Using a guitar made from a modified AK47 gun, César heads out to the streets with his colleagues whenever there is violence in the city to play music about peace.

Young volunteer Joe on top of the world at Exult!

Pass It On involves being filmed moving from left to right as creatively as possible – and creativity was the word at Exult. There were somersaults, piggybacks – and one young person managed to fly past the camera in a single leap, worthy of an Olympic long jump. After making their films, the young people wrote messages of peace to be passed to CAFOD’s partners around the world who are working for an end to conflict in their communities. These were truly inspiring and included:

‘Peace to me is the freedom to listen to that small and still quiet voice and recognising my neighbour and their needs.’ – Adrian.

‘Keep going and living in hope because God is with you in all your work.’ – Ciara

‘Peace to me is the fountain of goodness, greatness and everything amazing!’ – John.

‘Don’t stop, never give up, hold your head high and reach the top! If you are working through the love of God you can never fail!’ – Emily.

‘Peace to me is loving your neighbour and working to get along with everyone. It is being at one with yourself and the world around you.’ – Gemma.

The creative juices continued to flow as the young people designed symbols of hope to add to a giant mural, based on a peace mural created by the CAFOD-supported Association for the Victims of Violence in Colombia and inspired by Matthew 5:16: ‘You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before others.’ The Association for the Victims of Violence brings together people who have lost loves ones during the conflict in Colombia to help them express their grief and remember those who have died, as well as promoting peace and creating hope for the future. Symbols of hope for the young people at Exult included a beautiful sunset, a dove, candles, music, and images of the world.

After lunch, the young people retired to the chapel for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by quieter, more reflective music. The day culminated in Mass celebrated by the Most Reverend Archbishop Bernard Longley, fresh from welcoming the Jamaican and US Olympic teams to Birmingham. His Grace confessed that, as soon as he heard about the event from the organisers, he knew Exult was where he wanted to be even if other pressures had ended up calling him elsewhere.

Exult was organised by a team of eight young people, many of whom have experience working at retreat centres like Soli House and Alton Castle. It was a brilliantly organised, inspiring event which is sure to go from strength to strength – if you live in the Birmingham Archdiocese and missed out, make sure you don’t make the same mistake next year!

Huge thanks to the team for inviting CAFOD to take part, and a massive thanks also to CAFOD volunteers Jack and Joe, without whom our participation would simply not have been possible.

Have you taken part in Pass It On yet? It’s simple and easy to do: film yourself or a friend moving from left to right, upload it at and add your message of peace.


Filed under CAFOD, CAFOD Birmingham, greatgeneration, youth action

Key Volunteers Away Day

On the 11th July eighteen of the Archdiocese of Birmingham’s CAFOD volunteers gathered (in spite of the pouring rain) at Manresa House, the Jesuit Residence in Harborne, Birmingham, for an annual Away Day. The day began with a time of reflection in which each person was invited to light a candle and express their hopes of what the day would bring. While some hoped for a recharging of their spiritual batteries, others wanted to learn more about CAFOD’s work. Some said they were just happy to be with a group of people who have in common the desire for a more just world.

Geoffrey Chongo, a visitor from the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Zambia, was the first speaker of the day. The JCTR is a research, education and advocacy organisation that promotes study and action on issues linking Christian faith and social justice in Zambia. Its main research focuses are key social issues like the cost of living, social implication of debt servicing, accessibility of healthcare and education, and integrity of local democracy and it was on this theme that Geoffrey’s talk, concerning the impact that Chinese intervention is having in Zambia, was based upon. This fascinating talk ended with an impromptu debate concerning the necessities and hindrances of Chinese presence, a discussion of the long term effects on Zambia both economically and politically and even a proposition of whether the situation constituted a continuation of colonialism. Geoffrey was then presented with a quilt (shown above) made by pupils at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Brierley Hill, by CAFOD volunteer Raphael Agbor Ebot who visited the school earlier this year. The pupils had hoped that the quilt would be given to a community supported by CAFOD, and have now been told that it will be taken to Zambia as a message of solidarity and friendship.

 After a hearty shared lunch it was back to the sitting room of Manresa House for a discussion lead by Geoff O’Donoghue, CAFOD’s International Director. Geoff talked about the crucial interdependence between the lives of people all over the world, in both developed and developing countries. Thinking of the ‘butterfly effect’, Geoff spoke of how reaching upwards or downwards towards a fairtrade item on a shop shelf can make a real difference to the life of someone who grew or produced that item, thousands of miles away. Giving to charity is vital, he said, but it will never be enough if that is all we do. We must be part of the change, in how we choose to live.

We are always looking for new people to join our friendly volunteer team, who come from all parts of our diocese. If you are interested, do contact us to find out more on 01922 722 944 or

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The Great Birmingham Run!

CAFOD is once again seeking runners to run the Great Birmingham Run, on Sunday 21st October. Last year 10 amazing people ran the 13.1 miles in aid of CAFOD and this year we would love to have even more! Please contact us for a sponsorship pack, running vest and support with raising funds and gaining publicity for your efforts. As the event is televised on Channel 5, this is a great opportunity to get CAFOD running vests seen by many. So getting your legs in action for a great cause and enter the race via the Great Birmingham Run Website!

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Oxfordshire Youth Mass

In Oxford yesterday, the month began with a CAFOD Youth Mass organised by Trisha Dufficy from BCYS and Helen Hurrell from the Portsmouth diocese, in partnership with Amy Fox CAFOD Diocesan Officer (Youth). The day was a chance for the young people of Oxfordshire to come and have fun, discuss important global issues and worship together.

The day began with ice breakers with the young people getting to know each other with Jambo before going onto consider how many people, in how many different countries, they had relied on before they had even finished breakfast that morning, through Global Connections. Everyone then got into teams for a Reality Relay, for which they had to make their own football from carrier bags and string before starting.

The young people then got a taste of a microcosm of reality when they took on the characters of young people in countries where CAFOD works and tried to bid for things they needed in the World Values Auction. The soundtrack to the game quickly became constant shouts of ‘That’s not fair!’ as Jonathan from the UK consistently outbid everyone else, even for things that he didn’t need.

After that light hearted dose of global reality the attendees then turned their thoughts towards possible responses to injustice. To aid this, raps written by young people in Colombia and Kenya were listened to, as they tackled issues such as conflict and inequality which the lyricists face on a daily basis. Inspired by these, the young people then used their experiences from the World Values Auction, together with a selection of newspaper cuttings and extracts from the day’s readings, to think about the issues that mattered to them and to create their own raps,  to be performed as bidding prayers during Mass. Here are some examples for the next time you’re laying down some worship with Kanye or Jayz:


Poverty is bad blud,

very, very sad blud.

Rich people are greedy,

we’re very needy.

They don’t share:

it ain’t fair.

Lord hear our prayer.

Lord hear our prayer.


There is a hedgehog that is stuck inside a can.

It could be female or maybe a man.

It would have not happened if they put it in the bin.

Harming animals is a sin.

We should look after God’s environment.

We’ve been given this world. Take care – that’s a requirement.

God loves us all – he’ll never go into retirement.

Mass was then celebrated by Fr. Paul King, with an inspiring homily about the need for us all to do our one particular thing, however small, to make a difference as well as some brilliant singing by Lexie and Tori. The day was finished off perfectly with delicious soup and rolls prepared by Janet Farnsworth.

A big thank you to all the young people, Trisha, Helen and Janet for their hard work, to Fr. Paul for celebrating Mass and generally getting stuck in, and Fr. Naz, Kathleen and Joice for help, support and participation.

If you would like Amy or one of our volunteers to visit your parish to run a session, or if you are a youth leader in the Birmingham Diocese and you would like to inspire your young people to put their faith into action by engaging in global justice, we can provide advice, resources, training or even tailor-made sessions. Please get in touch with Amy on 01922 722944 or e-mail

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