Jack works for CAFOD. He has occasionally received Christmas gifts he didn’t like, but not from you, he loved yours. Here he mulls on the simple switch he (and his relatives) can make, so that Christmas is happier for everyone.
Making a Christmas list
Presents make a lot more sense when you’re a kid.
You’ve got no income, except maybe 50p here or there if your parents have deep pockets, or deeper sofa cushions. But you’re surrounded with stuff to want. The cartoons you watch, the comics you read – most of them are little more than adverts for a corresponding range of fluorescent plastic junk. So once a year you make a list and hope you get some of that junk for Christmas. And that’s fine. No-one minds. It’s cute. Because you’re a child.
During Advent Catherine Gorman from our Theology team remembers Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and reflects on the journeys that thousands of people still face today.
As we count down to Christmas we can get caught up in all the merriment and festive preparations. But what is this Advent season really about?
Use our Advent calendar throughout the season for daily prayer and reflection.
Advent is the time when we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Christ, now and at the end of time. We are reminded that Jesus is the Emmanuel – God with us. God is with every person, in every situation. No one is beyond the reach of God’s love.
Throughout all the festive hustle and bustle, I try to hold on to the idea that this is what we are really journeying towards – God’s love.
Rachel works for CAFOD. Here she reflects on how meeting Katy, a CAFOD Gapper, helped her to discover the power of a simple birth certificate, and inspired her to create a new, very special virtual gift for CAFOD’s World Gifts collection that will help babies and children around the world.
The importance of a birth certificate
A birth certificate. Every person needs one, it shows our citizenship, lets us get a passport – it tells the world who we are. And I think that here in the UK, we take this simple legal document for granted.
But for people living in poverty, perhaps in rural areas, where babies are born at home, it is often forgotten. And a child without a birth certificate faces problems.
In Zimbabwe, children without a birth certificate cannot go to school, take exams, apply for an ID card, vote, travel, nor access many other basic essential services.
I’ve worked in fundraising for years and am always eager to hear about how donations help. Katy, who recently travelled to Zimbabwe on a gap year trip with CAFOD, told me about the terrible and long-lasting impact of growing up without a birth certificate.
Katy said, “Children around the world continue to grow up without the basic human right of an identity.”
Today is International Human Rights Day. Esther Gillingham, CAFOD’S Brazil Programme Officer explains how CAFOD’s partner, Justice on the Railway Tracks is empowering human rights defenders and changing lives in Brazil.
CAFOD are very proud to share the news that our Brazilian partner, Justice on the Railway Tracks was presented with the first ever Human Rights and Business Foundation Award presented at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva on 27th November 2018.
They received the award for their work defending poor communities from the impacts of human rights and environmental abuses by mining companies in the Amazonian state of Maranhao in north-eastern Brazil.
This work included a 13-year long legal struggle which resulted in the landmark resettlement of the Piquia de Baixo community who have been adversely affected by a huge steel plant built right next to their community in the 1980s.
Oge Chukwudozie is a Humanitarian Capacity Strengthening Officer for CAFOD in Nigeria. Oge explains how community volunteers play such a vital role in CAFOD’s work to support remote communities.
As the most populous country on the continent, Nigeria is often referred to as the “Giant of Africa”. It is also large geographically, and transport links are poor in the more rural areas. It takes six hours for CAFOD staff to travel by road from Abuja to Omalla in Kogi state, and this is one of the closest areas where we work.
Community volunteers, supported by CAFOD and its partners, play an important role in supporting remote communities across Nigeria. This International Volunteers Day, on December 5th, I want to celebrate the important role that volunteers play in CAFOD’s work across the world, by sharing the stories of some of the wonderful volunteers in Nigeria.
In the wake of Black Friday madness gripping the UK for the last week, I reflect back to years gone by, with footage of people queuing for hours, or fighting to get the last bargain. How those people feeling now? I wonder if they are planning to replace last year’s new purchase with this year’s newer model, or whether they feel genuinely fulfilled by their choices.
Seeing these scenes has made me question my own purchases this Christmas. When I go out seeking to buy something for my family or friends, I try to question whether I am buying them a gift that they need. Will what I am giving them enrich their lives, or am I giving just for the sake of giving?
I have been working for CAFOD for almost two years now. On a daily basis, I witness dedication, passion and acts of solidarity from our volunteers around England and Wales. I am also privileged to hear the stories of colleagues and partners who work overseas on how our prayers and donations help local communities and transform lives for the better.
Seeing and hearing these stories inspires me, making me feel that living simply could be a better way to live. I know that if I make small changes in my life, it could enable someone else to live a fuller life.
At Liz Dene’s parish, Our Lady and Saints of Guernsey, their actions throughout Advent last year did just that.
After seeing the impact a single goat had had on a community during a trip to Uganda, Liz was inspired to help. She knew that CAFOD’s World Gifts, a range of ethical virtual gifts which transform lives overseas, could help. She decided to launch a project within her parish to fundraise.
The gift Liz chose was the Goat that Gives. It costs just £28 but provides a family with milk to drink or sell and fertiliser to help grow their crops.
The group held a coffee morning in their parish after Mass, expecting to fund around 30 goats. But the project took off, and in the end Our Lady and Saints of Guernsey bought over 100 goats, raising more than £3,000 and changing the lives of so many. They even symbolised each goat they bought by sticking a plastic figurine of a goat to a sandwich board, which was painted green. Liz said: “It worked because people were happy to give £28. And if they weren’t, we joked with them: ‘You can buy the hind quarters and someone else will buy the front!’”
More than just goats
This is just one example of CAFOD supporters changing lives through World Gifts. Schoolchildren from around England and Wales have fundraised to buy virtual villages, picking the things they think the village would most need: water, medical outreach teams and animals to name a few. Individuals have passed on the Gift of Play to some of the world’s poorest children.
World Gifts are a thoughtful and ethical present, and the benefits don’t end once you’ve unwrapped it. After you buy a World Gift, you will receive a beautiful card which explains how the gift will make a lasting difference.
I’ve already kickstarted my Christmas shopping with the chance for my sister to help a farmer grow enough food to feed a llama all year round with the Help a llama farmer gift. Llamas are three gifts in one – providing farming families with wool for clothing, manure for boosting crops and an important safety net in times of need! I know there will be smiles on Christmas day.
Either way, it’s a happy alternative to the same old socks, toiletries and chocolates that we are so used to giving and receiving during the festive period.
If we all challenged ourselves to live a little more simply and think a little more about the gifts we buy this Christmas, we could make a big difference. We can all take inspiration from Oscar Romero, who said: “Aspire not to have more, but to be more.”
Presenter and reporter Julie Etchingham travelled to Lebanon to see the work of CAFOD partner Caritas Lebanon.
So I’m flying home early this morning after three eye-opening days in Lebanon – expertly guided by CAFOD and their partners on the ground Caritas Lebanon. As we wind slowly upwards away from Beirut, I’m thinking of all the children we met in the past few days.
With just over a month until Christmas, Sally Kitchener in our communications team answers some of your questions about World Gifts – CAFOD’s virtual charity gifts.
With many of my friends and family searching for practical, ethical and meaningful presents this Christmas, I’ve found myself talking a lot about CAFOD’s World Gifts. And it turns out that Christmas charity gifts, especially virtual goat gifts, bring up some rather tricky questions.
Today is World Toilet Day. Abigail McMillan, in CAFOD’s South West and Wales team reflects on how the humble toilet is an often overlooked life-saver.
Toilets are generally a private subject; my mum would say not to be discussed at the dinner table. But professionally, World Toilet Day makes perfect sense to me. The world can be changed by toilets, and the Church takes toilets very seriously.
Following the tremendous response of Catholic parishioners in England and Wales to CAFOD’s Family Fast Day Appeal during Lent 2016, the UK Government doubled the nearly £5m that was donated by the general public. With this, we were able to instigate a water, sanitation and hygiene programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.