Being good neighbours and getting hands on

Damian Conlin works in CAFOD’s Fundraising team, and has been involved in our Hands On projects from the beginning. Our first Hands On project in Kitui, Kenya finished recently – explore it on our website

A group from Hands On Kitui waving
The original Hands On group in Kitui waving to their friends around the world.

Our desire to be connected

There has been a lot of comment in the last few weeks – off the back of our recent referendum – on what that vote to leave the EU says for our collective desire to stay connected to others. And, more specifically, what it says about our willingness to offer help to those outside our own borders. To be good neighbours.

So, with those questions in my mind, I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who supports CAFOD and makes our work possible.

Because, through that support, you restore my confidence in people’s goodness.

Do unto others

A principle I try (and frequently fail) to follow is to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. I see evidence every day that there are thousands of people throughout England and Wales who do a better job of living out that command.

That evidence takes many forms. It is your prayers; your gifts of money; the messages of support you have been sending to refugees and the time and energy many of you give when you volunteer with CAFOD.

One part of that evidence we have cause to celebrate at the moment, is the contribution of those who make a regular gift to CAFOD through Hands On.

Hands On is a series of ambitious two-year projects that transform lives and fortunes for a particular community. Supporters make a monthly donation to join the scheme and follow the progress of one community through regular updates. It started just over 2 years ago in Kenya with the Kitui water resource management project.

The dry, cracked earth in Kitui
The ground in Kitui was very dry.


From a harsh environment

“Though God should not be blamed, sometimes I feel like He has forsaken us.”

These were the words of Stella, a resident of Kitui. She was speaking to camera, explaining to CAFOD staff about the difficulties she faced in getting enough water. My own words ‘the difficulties she faced’ are, of course, inadequate. Stella would have to spend hours each day travelling back and forwards to a remote water source to collect water for her family to drink and for their crops.

Stella walking to collect water with her donkeys
Stella had to walk a long distance to get water, multiple times a day, before the Hands On project.

I’ve seen the video footage of the journey she had to make and can understand why, on some days, she might have felt God had abandoned her family.

But, it transpires, God had not.

The Diocese of Kitui, a partner of CAFOD in Kenya, knew about her problems and was ready to act to change things for Stella and the community. Working with them, they developed a comprehensive and ambitious plan to change the landscape and make it water efficient.

Explore Stella’s journey from hardship to hope

The centrepiece of the plan was to restore a huge dam that had fallen into disrepair. But before they could even start on the dam, they had to dig terraces, build a series of new mini-dams and make hundreds of small check dams, all of which would help divert and retain water. They also needed to plant thousands of new trees to protect the topsoil.

Community members ready with their line levels
The community were very enthusiastic about the project

So, they had their ambitious plan.

They had a more than willing workforce.

What they didn’t have was the money.

And that’s where CAFOD supporters came in.

To partnership across the world

Over 1700 people were inspired by the vision the people of Kitui had for a better and greener future.

They cared enough about people they would never meet to want them to be able to grow enough food to feed their families; to be able supplement their income by selling and trading additional produce; and for their children to be able to spend time in school, instead of hauling jerry cans back from the river.

So they joined Hands On, set up their direct debits and asked to follow the work.

Christ has no body on earth but yours.

No hands but yours, no feet but yours.

Yours are the hands by which he is to bless us now.

St Teresa of Avila.

And a huge achievement

Two years later, the people of Kitui, our partner organisation in Kitui and a wonderful group of supporters have combined to deliver that ambitious plan.

Explore the Kitui story further and see our plans for the next Hands On project in Bolivia

So, once again, thank you to the thousands of families, women, men children and young people in England and Wales who listen to the call of their neighbours and respond through their support of CAFOD.

You make a difference.

“Before I thought I was poor, but now I have knowledge and I can feed my family. I am no longer poor.”  – Stella

Project members celebrate on top of one of the sand dams
Project members celebrate on top of one of the sand dams



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *