Kezia is from Brentwood and has just finished a year volunteering with CAFOD as part of the Young Leadership programme, and has written about her experience to inspire others to get involved this year.
My year with CAFOD would not have started without my faith. My faith drove me to apply for CAFOD’s young leadership programme and to develop my passion for helping others. I had heard about CAFOD through my school but not in much depth, so when I applied for the programme, I didn’t know what to expect. Looking back, what I loved about the programme is the hands-on attitude. In my spare time, I do a lot of dance and that has made me want to get in and get involved. The young leadership programme is all about getting involved and raising awareness of CAFOD’s campaigns, so this programme was perfect for me. I was lucky enough to experience this for a whole year.
In my first session of the programme, we went through the seven values of CAFOD and how they work with partners in over 40 countries. Each group was given one of the values of CAFOD to explore in greater depth. My group got given ‘solidarity’. Solidarity for CAFOD means walking alongside the poor and disadvantaged communities, working together to challenge the policies and systems that keep people poor so that the whole of humanity can flourish.
As John Paul II said, “Solidarity … is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good … to the good of all and of each individual.” This showed me that solidarity is vital to CAFOD’s work by uniting their work in action and prayer. Other people’s presentations on CAFOD’s values also highlighted to me that when CAFOD presents people or communities, they are always shown with dignity and respect.
In our other young leadership session, we focused on the refugee messages of hope campaign. This linked in with the Flame youth event at Wembley, where I volunteered in the lunchbreak doing social justice games and was lucky enough to get on the CAFOD Instagram page! The campaign focused on giving hope to refugees through writing messages. Our job as young leaders was to promote this and try and lead it in our own schools and parishes. Together with other friends who were young leaders, we organised assemblies, fundraising events and a chance to write a message to a refugee in our justice and peace week at school. This was successful and our Christmas fundraiser raised over £300.
As CAFOD young leaders we decided to do a fundraising event for Lent Fast Day. We encouraged young people to colour in ‘Bob the fish.’ The fish that everyone coloured in showed our support as a school community towards CAFOD’s Lent campaign. The message of the campaign was to help turn little fish into big fish by providing communities with skills such as farming. Without CAFOD working with its partners, the work they do would not happen. The Lent Fast Day event was the last event I held as a young leader and after all the promotion of CAFOD and fundraising throughout the year, we raised over £1,000 between us for CAFOD.
So, when people ask me what I did with CAFOD for the year, my answer is, what didn’t I do? I learnt about social justice, fundraised, participated in campaigns and raised awareness of CAFOD as a charity and the work it does. The thing about the young leadership programme is that it enables you to explore social justice on a global scale and what you can do to help.
Once you have a passion for social justice, it doesn’t go away. Certainly for me it has inspired me to take a year off after completing my A-levels to do volunteering and promote social justice. I hope to do this through the CAFOD Step into the Gap programme. The young leaders programme has encouraged me to be the best version of myself and that happens to be when I am helping others in some way.
As St Catherine of Sienna said: “Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire.” My year with CAFOD has made me want to ‘set the world on fire’ through promoting social justice and continuing to support CAFOD in every way I can.