CAFOD Lent challenges: What we learned and what we’ll remember

Mariacristina Lubrano from our digital team tells us about her colleagues who have taken up some really exciting challenges this Lent.

CAFOD staff ready for Lent challenges
CAFOD staff at the beginning of our challenges

Back in February, right at the beginning of Lent, I shared my excitement about the number of extraordinary challenges that some of my colleagues had set themselves.

Some decided to fundraise for the CAFOD Lent appeal, seizing the amazing opportunity to double their impact with match funding.

Others chose to reflect personally and raise awareness in solidarity with people who struggle to get clean water. As I heard each idea, I was touched by their commitment and willingness to push themselves.

I loved checking in with them at lunch or when I passed them on the stairs – I felt I could share in the challenges and little frustrations they were facing, and join them in celebrating their triumphs! Now their challenges are over, I checked in with them one last time. I hope you find their stories as inspiring as I have!

The challenges

CAFOD Sarah 2 minute shower Lent challenge
Sarah saved water by only spending 2 minutes in the shower a day!


How long does it take you to have a shower in the morning? I usually enjoy at least 15 minutes of very hot water and feel energised to face a full day at work. I reckon that long and hot showers are something that many enjoy as a luxury….So I spoke to Sarah, from our supporters team and she told me about her two-minutes showers…”I challenged myself to a 2 minute shower and started with varying success. I was surprised by how short the time was and found at the start I had half washed hair when the timer beeped.

I then received a letter from my water supplier telling me that my husband and I use an average of 208 litres of water every day (apparently less than the average couple) but I was still shocked especially when I read the Lent Fast day talk and discovered that Proscovia and her family had only 10 litres of water for each day.

I quickly became very skilled at the speedy shower, celebrating when I had a few seconds to spare. I decided to make it a bit harder and have only 2 showers a week and that other days use minimal water to have a morning wash.

It has been a great experience and I have decide to keep it up past Lent. I got myself a waterproof shower timer which has pride of place in the bathroom and having a wash instead of a shower means I can get ready very speedily in the morning and can have a few extra minutes in bed!”

I was very  pleased to hear how this Lent challenge contributed to helping Sarah make some positive changes in her life style and use water in a more responsible way.


If by this point you think that Sarah’s challenge was a tough one, you should read about Mark’s extraordinary challenge and how well he coped with the effects of living for a week without hot water (no hot showers, no heating, no electricy, no hot meals!).

Watch the video to see how he got on.


Mark said: “I didn’t expect my challenge to show me what it’s like to live in rural Kenya where many people only have access to 10 litres a day – my living conditions and lifestyle are very different from people like Proscovia and her family – but I did get a glimpse of some of the problems you face if you don’t have enough water.

Warming up water manually…!

Sponsor Mark on JustGiving


I never felt 100% clean during my challenge and I worried that my colleagues would notice that I looked and smelled different from normal. Proscovia also faced this problem – she was embarrassed about going to school having not had enough time or water to wash, and she nearly dropped out of school completely. I also spent a lot of time thinking and worrying about water during my challenge. I had to plan out what I was going to do with my daily allocation. For example, if I had a wash one day I would have to wait until the next before I had enough water to wash my clothes. I found this frustrating and it made me realise the stress mothers in poor communities must feel when they not only have to plan their water use each day but also worry about whether that water is going to make them or their family sick.

Since the end of my challenge I’ve experimented with not always flushing the toilet and I’ve tried to cut back on the amount of water I use to rinse my dishes when doing the washing up. But in general I’ve gone back to using washing machines, taps and toilet flushes as normal. However, every time I turn on my taps I marvel at how easy it is for me to get clean, safe water and I am reminded that not everyone in the world has this luxury.”

I am not sure how Mark’s story made you feel, but I am absolutely in awe! You can show your support to Mark and sponsor him.

Sponsor Mark on JustGiving

Tom accepting a £1,000 cheque for CAFOD from his former school, Ursuline Catholic primary


The other day I met Tom who works in the major gifts team, and he told me about his challenge to give up all hot drinks. This can be a struggle when you rely on caffeine to wake up in the morning as well as keep yourself awake during day time! Tom Said: “It’s been a bit of a struggle – I usually have more than 3 cups of tea a day – but I’m glad I’ve stuck to the challenge. Not having hot drinks has made me reflect on my water usage and think of those who are unable fill a kettle with fresh drinking water as easily as we can.”


Similarly to Mark’s challenge, Ffion, from our Digital team, decided to live on 10l of water a day. You might think that it’s not too hard, but if you calculate the amount of water we use on a daily basis for the dish washer, washing machine, cooking and flushing the toilet (on top of the drinking water and the one we use for your showers), you may grasp the difficulties that Ffion encountered. Watch her video from early on in her challenge, telling us about some of the biggest struggles.

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Ffion completed her challenge and I feel happy and proud about what she achieved this Lent. Watch her final video to learn more about how it went and what she learnt from living on 10l of water a day.

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Ffion did not set up a JustGiving page but she asked her friends and family to donate to our appeal.

Donate to our Lent Appeal

Now that Lent is over I can sense the relief of some of my colleagues, as they all experienced how hard it was to live without hot water or on a restricted amount of it for just a short period of time.

Most of us may have started going back to our old habits, but there is a definite difference. We are all a little bit more aware of what people like Proscovia and Guti go through when they are unable to have access to clean water. Now we stop and think before leaving that tap on or having more than a shower a day.

It’s not too late to support our appeal – make a donation today!

Author: CAFOD

CAFOD stands for the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development. We are an international development charity and the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. We stand beside people living in poverty – whatever their religion or culture. Through local church partners, we help people directly in their own communities, and campaign for global justice, so that everyone can reach their full potential. How to get involved with CAFOD None of our work is possible without you. Whether you donate, campaign, download prayers or volunteer we are grateful for your support.

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