Why I volunteer – to be “part of a vital piece of God’s machinery”

Portsmouth CAFOD volunteers show their love at a supporter meeting
Portsmouth CAFOD volunteers show their love at a supporter meeting

Ahead of Volunteers’ week, we asked a number of CAFOD volunteers to share their experiences with us.  Here, Anne-Marie McBrien, a parish volunteer in the Portsmouth diocese, tells us why she makes time in a very busy schedule to help:

Firstly – because I was asked to! This is a very important point, I think, as lots of people don’t realise that CAFOD always needs more people to help and that you don’t need to do much to make a difference.

I was asked by an older parishioner to take on the role because she was tired and her husband was ill and I am younger and more mobile. I resisted at first because I do so many other things, and I have so little time, but I said yes because she needed someone to take it off her.  I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to devote any time to CAFOD. I was invited to, but couldn’t make, the supporter’s meeting just after I had taken on the role. I didn’t think it mattered really, as I gave the short talk at mass for Lent and I put up the posters I was sent.  I felt I was too busy with other church things, school responsibilities and latterly, the Scouts. Too much to do!

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The next supporters’ meeting I was able to attend.  As a result of it, my attitude to volunteering with CAFOD changed.

Right from my arrival, I felt like I was part of a vital piece of God’s machinery and that my input, however tiny, was really crucial to making a difference in the lives of some of the poorest people on earth.

Anne-Marie McBrien, parish volunteer in the Portsmouth diocese
Anne-Marie McBrien, parish volunteer in the Portsmouth diocese

We heard from people working on the ground in hard-hit areas of the world, particularly those that were not documented in the mainstream media and hadn’t been well publicised. Several speakers gave talks, all of which were easy to connect to the Gospel message by which we are asked to live our lives. Jesus asked us to see Himself in each and every person and this is what CAFOD’s work was doing.

I believe very strongly that we should be at the service of others, and in most of my volunteering this is quite evident. However, only when I had attended a supporters’ meeting and heard some of the real situations people are in and understood what CAFOD is seeking to achieve with its different projects and emphases did I feel that my small efforts also contribute to the goals of relieving poverty and distress.

In particular, I am proud to be able to say that I contribute to the work that CAFOD does in seeking to alleviate the burdens faced by women in many developing countries. It is also comforting to know that, regardless of sex, creed or colour, the dignity of each human person in need is respected in the work that goes on in our name. Given the message of God’s love that we are asked to show, this work is surely faith in action and something that every Catholic can happily support.

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I think that the information that we get a supporters is amazing and I never fail to feel motivated, energised and enthused about CAFOD’s work once I have been. I have never missed a meeting since my epiphany! I do look down the list of people at the start of the meetings and I sometimes feel bad that I am not doing as much as other people, but then I hear about the work done as a result of the money I have helped to raise and I feel proud and uplifted.

The meetings also provide resources for us to take away and I have used some of these with young people and children during Liturgy of the Word.

I find that my volunteering with CAFOD has given new impetus to my engagement with my church community, better understanding of the needs of those in poverty and distress, and a wonderful sense of purpose in being able to put the Gospel into practice. Even busy parents can do this!

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