Georgia is a youth leader at The Briars Catholic youth retreat centre. This year she will work with hundreds of young people, enabling them to explore their faith. She has just started a year volunteering with CAFOD as a youth ambassador, championing global justice work in her centre. Here she reflects on her year ahead.
Last week I was fortunate enough to be a part of CAFOD’s ambassador first training programme, in which myself and eight other youth ministers joined forces to work together on how we could further raise awareness on the current refugee crisis.
Training on refugee crises
As part of the training we spent two days in London at the CAFOD Romero House headquarters, meeting with people who had first hand experience working for the Catholic charity and with refugees. This included talking to a member of CAFOD’s Emergency Response Team who educated us on the refugee situation in Darfur, in which there are 3.3 million people in need.
We also spoke to Lucinda, CAFOD’s Head of UK News, who visited a refugee camp in Athens, to deliver the messages of hope that were written as part of a campaign started by the previous CAFOD ambassadors. She explored their sense of limbo and reality of their living conditions, as well as their desire for action on our part, as a way to give them back their dignity.
Sarah, another member of the CAFOD team, spoke to us about her trip to Lebanon to give us a richer understanding of the harsh reality that 86% of refugees are hosted by developing countries. We also learnt that although the refugee crisis seems like a current issue, there are Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who have been there for over 50 years.
Refugee pilgrimage through London
A highlight of this training for me was the refugee pilgrimage which was inspired by Pope Francis who encouraged us during the year of mercy to make a pilgrimage, to mark “an extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal”. The pilgrimage took us on a tour through London, starting at Southwark Cathedral and ending at Westminster Cathedral.
The pilgrimage allowed us to explore refugee accounts as well as scripture, with time for personal prayer. I found this pilgrimage of great benefit because it gave me the time to further reflect on what I had learnt in the day and also to gain a better understanding of how our faith calls us to help those who are in need.
Lead a pilgrimage reflecting on refugees’ experiences in your youth group or school.
Meeting with the Jesuit Refugee Service
On the final day of training we visited the Jesuit Refugee Service who showed us how refugees are being betrayed by our legal system and the unfortunate circumstances that many of them are in due to their rights, which shockingly change from day to day. That said, it was wonderful to see how passionate and dedicated the employees of the service are. They are constantly striving to improve the lives of refugees and it is so fantastic to see how people put their faith into action.
Looking forward to the year ahead
To tie up the training the rest of the ambassadors and I gathered to discuss how we could take what we had learnt over the training and how we could implement this into the retreat centres we work in through our ministry. Overall, I really enjoyed this training and look forward to future work with CAFOD during my gap year.
Get your youth group involved with CAFOD this year with our resources for youth leaders and chaplains.