Tom, from CAFOD’s fundraising team, challenged himself to give up hot drinks for Lent. He tells us how he got on, and reflects on how the generosity of CAFOD supporters in the UK is helping people like those he met in Kenya.
This Lent, I took on a challenge very different to my usual no-sweet-things observance. In line with CAFOD’s aqua themed fundraising appeal, I decided to take up a water challenge and drink no hot drinks for 40 days and 40 nights.
For some people this would be fairly straight forward. But I come from a long line of tea drinkers and would usually have at least 3 cups a day. A visit to my Nan’s is synonymous with having a brew, and if you were to turn one down you’d immediately be confronted with a “What’s wrong?!”
During Lent, I was fortunate enough to travel to Kenya and visit some CAFOD projects. I saw first-hand how accessing water is a challenge for many people and how, through our local partners, CAFOD is helping communities to provide for themselves and their families in a sustainable manner.
This is true in rural areas near to Kitui, to the South East of the country’s capital, Nairobi. We visited three community groups CAFOD is working with to change lives in the area. CAFOD are supplying drought resistant seeds such as millet and sorghum, providing larger breeds of chicken that are more robust to the arid climate, and educating community members in terracing techniques to improve water retention and increase soil quality for growing crops. One member of the community told us that they were able to produce a cartful of maize after using the new farming techniques, something they haven’t been able to do before.
This support has enabled the community to become more self-reliant and to support their families; for example, those who have struggled to pay school fees in the past are now able to cover the cost. One community member called Kikombo had a message for CAFOD supporters: “I appreciate the support that is coming to our community. Knowledge [of agricultural methods] is so important to us, we want to keep on learning.”
On our final stop of the day, we met 96-year-old Philomena. “Welcome to our place,” she said heartily, proceeding to tell us, through an interpreter, how she is still active in her community group, tending to the crops. She has been in the area since she married in the 1950s, saying in the early years the rains were good which lead to a plentiful harvest, but as time went on, drought made it tougher to grow enough to eat. Since the project has been in place, she says she sees how it is possible to change their situation through soil conservation. She explained how she is happy now they are able to produce food and is looking forward to a good future for her family. Philomena wishes CAFOD supporters in England and Wales well, says she is grateful for the support her community has received and that she feels good about life now.
Back to school
On my return from Kenya, I was privileged to visit some keen CAFOD supporters at Ursuline Catholic Primary School (my old school!). It was great to go back and share our work with students and teachers, deliver messages from communities we support and to thank them for their fundraising. Each class has taken part in our “Make A Splash” Lent Appeal, collecting coins in water bottles and holding an Easter Egg raffle. The £1,000 they raised will be matched by the UK Government, meaning CAFOD will receive £2,000 to help communities access the clean water they need to survive and thrive.
Come Easter Sunday, my Lent challenge had drawn to a close and I was able to enjoy a brew again. The first (and one of the best tasting cuppas I’ve ever had) was in my Nan’s with a few slices of brack. Giving up hot drinks over Lent helped me to reflect on our sisters and brothers across the world who can’t fill a kettle with clean water as easily as we can. It also made me think about all of our supporters, in schools like Ursuline, work places, parishes and family homes across England and Wales who were taking on water based challenges and donating money to CAFOD during Lent. With your support, we can enable communities like Philomena’s to lift themselves out of poverty. Thank you once again for all you do. And on that note, I think it’s time for a brew!