Ged Edwards, Volunteer Coordinator in Liverpool reflects on the incredible contribution from volunteers who speak at Mass.
Today, we are more aware than ever of other countries and of the lives of our brothers and sisters across the world. For many Catholics, this awareness goes way beyond booking the next holiday, and our relationship with our global family is especially close at key times of the year. Lent and Harvest Fast Days are times when we are particularly aware of our sisters and brothers overseas. At this time, we think about the support the Church offers through CAFOD.
Lent 2015 – Kyin Nu
During Lent this year, we introduced you to Kyin Nu – a woman from Myanmar who lost her two eldest children to a cyclone in 2008. Kyin Nu and her husband now have one precious daughter left. As the family faced terrible loss and powerlessness, CAFOD worked with our partner in Myanmar to help Kyin Nu’s community to restore buildings, farms and fisheries, and to construct new land defences. We have worked to make sure that next time – and, sadly, there will be a next time – Kyin Nu’s community know how to stay safe. Kyin Nu knows where to safely store her food so it doesn’t get ruined by salt water, where to run to when she hears the warning signal, and her daughter knows to pack an emergency bag filled with essentials like water, food and a blanket.
Carmel Donnelly, one of our volunteers in Salford, shared Kyin Nu’s story with her parish at Mass during Lent. A real person giving an account from their heart helps people to understand what’s going on in the world and what they can do to help. Carmel told me: “It was good to hear of a personal story, as it related to real people in need.”
Our relationship with our brothers and sisters
Volunteers always receive such a warm welcome when they speak at Mass. They tell me how rewarding it is to thank parishioners for their longstanding support and to give them details about CAFOD’s recent work. As our volunteers speak, they hold a thread between you here in England and Wales, and our brothers and sisters overseas. If this thread breaks, people’s lives can be so badly affected.
Preserving the thread – preserving that precious relationship – means life-changing support for thousands of people overseas, and it can inspire new supporters to act in solidarity. This Lent, people were inspired by Kyin Nu’s strength and resilience, and responded with fantastic generosity – raising over £5 million for our Lent Appeal. This incredible sum of money will make a real difference to thousands of people, like Kyin Nu, who are affected by disasters.
The UK government also offered to match your gifts pound for pound, so your donations are worth an astounding £10 million. The government chose to do this because they know that donations to CAFOD get to where they are needed, and will be spent wisely by trusted partners with whom we work closely.
Your prayers keep us going
Our teams around England and Wales do rely on your financial gifts, but the prayers of the Catholic community are also vital to our work. When things are difficult, knowing that you are hoping and praying for a better world keeps me going. Our partners feel this too. When Erasmo Valiente came to visit us from El Salvador, he told us: “In the most difficult of times, you have always been with us. You have supported us through times of civil war and earthquakes. You are like the stars. Although far away, you always seem so close.”
In Salford, and in the dioceses across England and Wales, we ask for people to volunteer in the parish for CAFOD, or to speak at Mass, or offer whatever skills they have. The experience is always a rewarding one. After giving a talk at Mass, Sister Beatrice Molyneux told me: “I was grateful to those parishioners who came up to thank me for the talk. I was also pleased to meet some who offered to help as contacts in the parish. I am praying that some of these lovely people will follow up and assist their parish priest with CAFOD in future.”
Every volunteer brings life experience and an enthusiasm to work for justice. In Salford, 26 new people joined us last Lent to share our vision for a world free from poverty. And in turn, they inspired dozens more to put their faith into action. A huge thank you to everyone who supported our Lent Appeal.
Do you have a skill you can share? Contact your local CAFOD office to volunteer this Harvest