After parish events were cancelled due to lockdown, CAFOD volunteer Ann Smith from Milton Keynes decided to hold her own socially-distanced garden party. She shares her inspiration and explains why she’s urging others to recreate summer events in aid of CAFOD’s Coronavirus Appeal.
Missing parish life
It all started one evening when we were talking about what a shame it was that our church music group at my parish of St Augustine’s in Milton Keynes couldn’t have its usual bring-a-dish-lunch, which was customarily held in someone’s house in July.
We went on to bemoan the many effects of Covid-19 on parish life – how we can’t meet and greet friends, can’t socialise, can’t sing, and can’t even launch the CAFOD Coronavirus Appeal in church, given that only a small number of people are now attending Sunday Mass.
Then we hit on the idea of inviting the music group to afternoon tea in our garden. It was a way of seeing each other and also raising funds for CAFOD’s Coronavirus Appeal.
Small ideas coming into bloom
My husband and I are both keen gardeners, so we knew people would enjoy spending some time not only chatting and relaxing but looking at the various plants in bloom. This we could manage while observing social distancing.
So, we emailed our 20-member music group and got lots of positive responses.
The date was set for Sunday 26 July, flowers all told to be on their best behaviour and weeds banished.
We set up a JustGiving page as well for those who wanted to donate online. This was very easy to do via the CAFOD website.
Using our plants to tell a story
We wanted the occasion to be an opportunity also for people to learn something about how CAFOD is responding to the challenges of coronavirus.
So, we identified some of the plants in our garden that were natives of countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and found information on CAFOD-supported coronavirus responses in these countries and placed them beside each plant.
For instance, dahlias hail from Central America, so a sheet beside our dahlias told of coronavirus responses supported in Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Agapanthus thrives in Southern Africa and Cannas in East and West Africa.
Stargazer lilies originate in Asia, so sheets placed strategically beside these plants told visitors about CAFOD-funded coronavirus responses in refugee camps in Asia and East Africa, as well as those in communities in Zimbabwe, DRC, Cambodia and more.
Friends, food and fun
Between us we had prepared a wonderful selection of sandwiches, baked goodies and cold drinks that were set out in our conservatory.
People wandered around the garden enjoying the various flowers that were indeed on their best behaviour and reading the CAFOD information they occasionally encountered.
Some of our friends, Frances and Tony, said to us: “It’s a fantastic way to support your chosen charity while having a lovely afternoon tea with friends.”
While another, Ka-yee, added: “CAFOD is one of my favourite charities, that I trust are making a real difference.”
The event was a great success: we chatted, had far too much of the delicious food and drinks, and just enjoyed seeing each other again and catching up on news.
The afternoon was a lovely occasion of friendship and solidarity with the work of CAFOD. And as the cherry on top, we managed to raise over £350 for CAFOD’s Coronavirus Appeal.