Charlie is a youth worker at the Youth Ministry Trust (YMT) in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. He works with young people to inspire and encourage them in their faith. This year he has volunteered as the ‘CAFOD ambassador’ at YMT, championing global justice work on the team.
My year as a volunteer
My year at YMT has been absolutely incredible, heightened by joining forces with CAFOD to promote social justice and CAFOD’s key projects and campaigns.
My year here at YMT as CAFOD ambassador has been one of great growth and progress, having the opportunity to grow in my skills, confidence, and joy for the Gospel! My work with CAFOD has also very much challenged me, in researching and learning about major social and political issues that impact the world around us, and us personally.
A challenge: exploring the Refugee crisis with young people
The focus of my work this year has particularly been surrounding the Refugee crisis, and looking at its causes, as well as the experiences and lives of those who are trapped in this very restless and troublesome situation. Sometimes it is almost impossible to convey the lives, feelings, and predicaments of those refugees to a group of young people.
It is hard to imagine a life without the modern appliances and comforts of our age. It is hard to convey a message of hope, a message of empowerment, a call to action, without presenting an almost hopeless situation that is riddled with bureaucracy and upset.
What has helped me
However, being able to work with CAFOD this year has provided myself, and the rest of the CAFOD youth leader ambassadors team, with the adequate resources and training to convey the situation and message without letting way with the principles of dignity, and solidarity.
It’s important to us to present a session that encourages young people to partake in this awesome mission: to help the Church alleviate the patterns of poverty and to help those brothers and sisters who are stuck in a situation well beyond their control.
Refugee simulation game gets young people thinking
One of the best resources, for me, is the On the move refugee simulation game, which asks the young people to put themselves in the situation of refugees. They have to think about what possessions they are going to take, to put all that they own into a bag small enough to carry. During each round of the activity, they have to ponder whether to prize items of monetary value over prized family possessions. The activity helps them to think about the sudden shock of having to leave one’s home, leaving the place where all your memories, friends, and family are; in exchange for a very uncertain and unfamiliar future.
During each round of the game, we talk through the travels that they would undertake; the traversing from war zone to desert, to sea, and all that is in between! The common accidents that easily take place, the lack of water, the occurrence of injury, breaking down of vehicle or transport, the lack of space or money… the list continues.
Eventually they are asked to consider the impossible; to separate, to decide who carries the family resources and who will travel by boat, who is to walk to Europe or the next camp. Throughout the activity they lose items in their bags, I hear shouts and moaning; “Aaaah Sir!!! This is unfair!”, “What, why would we separate!!??”, and “I’m not doing this! I give up!”. At the end of the activity you round up all that was said and done, addressing the helplessness, the resignation in their tasks, the feeling of hopelessness.
Telling real-life stories
At the end of the activity, you remind them that there is work being done, that there are projects that are having a massive impact on the lives of refugees and their quality of life in the camps. One of my key examples are the fund cards that allow parents to buy their own food and materials. One mother in a Greek camp noted that the cards allowed her to buy an ice cream for her children. This project gives people the dignity to lead a greater quality of life.
Messages of hope
Other resources provided by CAFOD include the messages of hope, empowering young people and the voices that they have, that the words they share have power to help and encourage others.
The messages to the UK video has also been useful. It gives the older groups on retreats a real snapshot to how refugees feel, a video that is only a minute long but says so much! This video is a brilliant resource, that I have used a lot this year, as it gets the groups to really think and feel what it would be like for a refugee. The video gives them a person or figure that they can follow, it makes the situation real for them. The discussions and input followed is what is key, it is a resource that guides them to feel empowered and eager to help.
Seeing God working amongst young people
Overall my year at YMT has been one of great privilege, to see God moving and working in power amongst the young people, and seeing what they are capable of!
The work and help of CAFOD has been amazing, whether that be their training programme and provision of resources, or it be their projects that support many people. All of this is helping build God’s Kingdom, including their call to serve and act upon Jesus’ teachings, both to us volunteers and the young people that we minister to.
So, thank you for reading about my journey so far, and keep praying for us all at YMT and CAFOD, may we keep striving for whatever he has in store for us all this year! God bless!