Author Archives: claudmba

A home of our own: hope and housing in Jerusalem

At last, William and Frida have a home of their own. For years they went from one makeshift arrangement to another, while their children were born and grew up, and then the grandchildren arrived.

House of our own Israel Gaza

William and Frida with family

William and Frida are Palestinians who were born and bred in Jerusalem, and were determined to stay in the Holy City which is their home, despite the difficulties this has created.

East Jerusalem was annexed to Israel in 1967, but this annexation has never been recognised under international law.

Find out more about our work in Israel and Palestine>>

William and Frida were part of a group of 80 Palestinian Christian families, none of them well-off, who were helped by an initiative launched by the Catholic Church in the Holy Land to build an affordable housing project. CAFOD gave £10,000 towards the project to cover taxes and legal fees. The families started moving in to their new homes in 2013. Here William describes their journey to owning their own home.

Palestinian Christians are a small minority in East Jerusalem – only 2 per cent. As a result, there are difficulties preserving our identity as Palestinian Christians.

Also, we were Palestinians but without a Palestinian passport. We lived in Jerusalem but we didn’t have an Israeli passport. If we wanted to travel abroad we needed a travel document issued by Israeli authorities.

If a man from Jerusalem marries a West Bank Palestinian woman, she can’t live with him in Jerusalem. If he chooses to live with her in Palestine, he will lose his Jerusalem ID and therefore his right to live in Jerusalem and his right to Israeli health and social insurance.

Help us to help people who live in insecurity and fear>>

We’d been trying to find a home of our own for twenty years. But getting housing is hard because of the high cost of land for construction, high property taxes and the great difficulty of getting a license to build a house.

It’s had a huge effect on our family and home life. Not having somewhere of our own meant instability – a lack of assurance and dignity. It made me feel insecure and very anxious about my children’s future.

But we wouldn’t leave in spite of all the difficulties. We were not born here by chance or coincidence. We feel it is a privilege and a divine call to be born and live here and to carry the message of faith in this very place.

We stay because of our Faith and love for our Holy land, the land of our ancestors and community. We belong to the place where Jesus was born and lived. We are proud to live in the place where Christianity started.

The Latin Patriarchate, the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, announced a housing initiative and invited people to sign on. We accepted willingly and started by paying the price of the land. CAFOD supported us through a donation to cover legal expenses. We needed legal advice about everything from buying the land purchase, to registering the land in our names. With the help of an architect and a lawyer, we immediately started applying for construction permits, and even with their support it took four years to get them.

Before we could get the final permit, we had to seek approval from more than 10 offices: water and sewage authority, the Land Registry Office, planning office, archaeology ministry, for roads, telephones, electricity, and so on. As you may guess, we had to pay for the services of each office. Of course, it is a system which applies to all citizens, but for us, however, it took more time because of our status.

Owning a house means having security and dignity. CAFOD’s help has given us a sense of empowerment, the elevation of our social and cultural standing, and the realization of our dream.

What we used to pay as rent is lost forever and we had no security. Paying off a mortgage to the bank gives assurance that one day we will own the house outright.

It provides us with security and dignity, which are most important human needs to develop and flourish. We enjoy the landscape. We see trees from our windows. Before, this did not happen.

Your support is the difference between security and fear, hope and despair for so many of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged people. Thank you for all you do. Please continue to help CAFOD change lives.>>

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Philippines: Six months on

It is six months since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines.  CAFOD’s Emergency Response Officer Janet Crossley shows how your incredible generosity has helped people rebuild their lives.

Philippines Agriculture-banner

When Typhoon Haiyan hit Eastern Samar in the Philippines, it destroyed crops, homes and belongings. It also flattened more than three million trees on the coconut farms where many local people were employed. About 80 per cent of people surveyed on Samar and Leyte islands in the aftermath said they had been left with almost no source of income.

The early response efforts after the typhoon were about meeting immediate needs: getting tarpaulins on roofs, clearing debris and distributing food and clean water. But six months on, people are thinking more about the future: once the immediate relief ends, how will they make a living and feed their families?

When I last visited Eastern Samar in February, CAFOD’s partner Catholic Relief Services was organising agricultural fairs to support people who lost their livelihoods during the typhoon. Each eligible family was given vouchers to buy seeds and tools at the fair, so that they could grow food for themselves through small-scale ‘backyard’ agriculture.

Thank you – Your donations are helping families rebuilding lives after Typhoon Haiyan. Please help us continue this vital work>>

Joseph was one of the people I met in Quinapondan municipality. Before Haiyan hit, he had a job gathering copra on coconut farms, but he had been out of work since the typhoon. He did, however, still have a basketball court-sized piece of land at home, so he came to the fair to get rubber boots, fertiliser and tools that he would use to grow cassava from seeds that he had saved. He hoped that this would provide food for his family, as well as a small additional income, while he looked for a new way to make a living.

The agricultural fair took place in a makeshift marquee, with the sounds of Filipino pop stars and Lady Gaga – she really does get everywhere – blasting out over the sound system. During the course of the morning, each person who arrived would first register their name against the list, pick up their family’s vouchers for 1,500 Pesos (just over £20), and then get down to the serious business of shopping.

The market stalls had a wide range of items available, ranging from beautifully-made and extremely sharp machetes (900 Pesos), to more basic iron tools for clearing land (200 Pesos), tomato and bean seeds (60 Pesos), and simple locally-woven sunhats to keep off the glaring sunshine (30 Pesos). By encouraging local traders to come and sell their wares, the fairs also helped markets in the area to recover after the disaster.

The other advantage of using fairs and vouchers is that it allows for differences between people, and gives them the freedom to choose what they need, according to their circumstances, rather than distributing a one-size-fits-all selection of goods to every person.

As I observed the goings-on, some familiar shopping tactics emerged. Some people were browsers: wandering around the stalls for up to an hour, painstakingly choosing and bartering on different products. Others – mostly men – took a more abrupt approach: making a beeline for the tools, stocking up on a few small items with the change, and then heading straight back out.

Meerna and her husband Frederico used their vouchers to buy various small tools and seeds, as well as some of the popular straw sunhats. They were growing aubergine and corn, because these were familiar crops for them both, and because Meerna’s speciality dish is aubergine omelette!

In the past two months, the people who attended the fairs in February have been busy: clearing, digging, sowing and tending to their new vegetable patches. They have even been able to harvest the quicker-growing crops, using some to feed their families, and selling others to buy fish and other staple foods, as well as meet other day-to-day household expenses.

The vegetables that these families are growing will not be a permanent solution; they will need more support to find new sources of income in the longer term. But over the coming months, the seeds and tools that they chose will provide them with a valuable safety net as they go about building back their lives.

From the initial emergency response to these temporary vegetable gardens to the eventual rebuilding of communities and livelihoods, all the support we have offered has been made possible because of the generosity of the Catholic community in England and Wales. From those seeds, fresh hope is growing.

Thank you – Your donations are helping families rebuilding lives after Typhoon Haiyan. Please help us continue this vital work>>

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Digging deep for CAFOD: fighting hunger one garden at a time

Sophie Harrington is CAFOD’s Diocesan Communications Officer for East Anglia. She joined Christine Walkden, Patrick Jamiru and a host of keen young gardeners for a day of digging deep in support of CAFOD’s Lent appeal.

It’s not every day you meet up with a TV gardener, some schoolchildren and an African charity worker to fight global hunger.

Clutching some cabbage seeds, we did just that at St Laurence’s Catholic Primary School in Cambridge to highlight CAFOD’s Dig Deep Lenten appeal.

The appeal reminds us that one in eight people in the world go hungry every day – but we CAN help.

The One Show’s gardening guru Christine Walkden shared her passion for plants with the children aged five to nine years old in the newly-formed gardening group.

She showed them exactly how to plant those cabbage seeds so they do the best they can.

Her visit coincided with that of CAFOD partner Patrick Jamiru from Sierra Leone, who came to the school to explain how – with their support to CAFOD – people in his region have transformed an abandoned diamond mine in fertile farmland. It’s helping people to overcome the hungry season in his country, which sees people struggle to find enough food for up to six months of the year.

Mohammed's community have turned swamp land into farmland to help get through the hungry season.

Mohammed’s community have turned swamp land into farmland to help get through the hungry season.

Patrick encouraged the children to ‘dig deep’ with people in his own country and think how they can help the world’s poorest people.

He told them: “The land had been mined for diamonds in Sierra Leone and once they were not finding any, they went and left big holes with water in. They dug big, big holes and they had not filled their holes, they just left them like that.

“Our land is our mainstay and how we get our livelihood. To change it so that people could farm for themselves has helped them so much.”

He told the Cambridge pupils how children he knows, called Mohammed and Samai, have had their lives improved by the project. Even having the prospect of being able to attend school becoming a reality for them.

The children listened keenly and had a host of questions for both Patrick and Christine.

Christine told the young gardeners: “Without gardeners and farmers we would starve. It’s the gardeners and the farmers of the world that keep us alive. They also make the world beautiful. A gardener can make the world beautiful and grow food and what a privilege that is.”

Pupils at St Laurence's Catholic Primary School in Cambridge Dig Deep with help from TV presenter & gardener Christine Walkden to highlight global hunger.

Pupils at St Laurence’s Catholic Primary School in Cambridge Dig Deep with help from TV presenter & gardener Christine Walkden to highlight global hunger. [CAFOD]

She added: “Growing plants is the same as growing people. What it requires is tender loving care. Without it neither will grow, develop and bloom.

“The children here today were very interested, very engaged and enquiring. It’s important that children know in this country how to grow food. We take so much for granted. It’s important for children to realise that there are places in the world where people do not have enough food to live.”

Teacher Barbara Quail said the visitors had both inspired her and the children.

Mrs Quail said: “We are the opposite to the children in Sierra Leone in some ways. We have enough food grown and we are now trying to help the children redevelop those skills that they have lost because the supermarkets sell everything they need. They should know where their food comes from and how lucky they are. How they can help others who are not so fortunate has been really brought to life to them.”

CAFOD volunteer, Mary Watkins, said: “I think it is an excellent project. It’s very exciting for the children to be involved in and important for them to learn where their fundraising goes. Patrick has been able to tell them first-hand.”

“I have helped at the school with CAFOD for about seven years and I know this is an experience the children will remember. It always amazes me what they remember from previous visits when we have told them about CAFOD’s work.”

Hopefully some seeds for thought were also planted that day.

The event brought press attention with Cambridge News and BBC Cambridgeshire Radio attending and playing a part in highlighting the scandal of global hunger.

We can all Dig Deep this Lent – please join us today>>

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Exploring Kenema: How Lent Fast Day can change the face of a community

Tomorrow is Lent Fast Day. This year CAFOD is asking you to dig deep for children and families around the world who don’t have enough to eat – children like Mohammed and Samai in Kenema, Sierra Leone.

 Eleanor, one of our gap year volunteers travelled to Sierra Leone, and spent three days with the community of Tissor, where Mohammed and Samai are from. She saw first-hand how your money is helping.

Find out more about how you’re helping in Sierra Leone. Please dig deep with CAFOD this Lent>>

We began our stay here on Sunday when we went to mass at St Paul’s Cathedral looking amazing wearing our freshly made African outfits. The whole Catholic community make a real effort to dress up in traditional costume for mass so we thought that we would join in the culture and wear ours! They’re amazingly comfortable, and I’m going to be really tempted to live in it when I’m back in the UK.

Eleanor with Samai and his classmates

Eleanor with Samai and his classmates

The bulk of our week was taken up with our 3-day visit to the rural community of Tissor, just outside Kenema. CAFOD is helping people make a living in this area by giving the community the know-how and financial support to set up a poultry farm and a fishpond.

It was incredible to see how CAFOD’s support has helped. Although not fully functional yet, it is clear that the project is already really affecting the lives of the community in a very positive way. Albert is the community officer of the poultry farm and says the project, which provides eggs and a source of income for the people of Tissor, has given him a real sense of purpose and helped him to afford to send his children to school. He is really appreciative of CAFOD’s support, and we all hope to see this success copied throughout communities in Sierra Leone.

 CAFOD is accepting applications for next year’s Step into the gap programme. Find out more and apply today>>

After a sad farewell (particularly from the children!) from the village of Tissor, we headed back to Kenema city.

It has been a real eye-opener to be invited into this wonderful, flourishing community. Aside from enjoying spending time with some amazing and inspirational people, I have had a chance to see just some of the huge impacts that CAFOD is having on people’s lives and how support from the UK is really making a difference.

Please Dig Deep with CAFOD this Lent to help people in Sierra Leone and around the world to a better future.

Please Dig Deep with CAFOD this Lent to help people in Sierra Leone and around the world to a better future.

Your donations really do make a difference in the lives of the world’s poorest people. Please dig deep with us this Lent, so more families and communities can have hope for the future>>

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International Women’s Day: A call for solidarity

Leila el Ali, Director of CAFOD’s partner Association Najdeh

Leila el Ali

Leila el Ali is very proud to be Director of CAFOD’s partner Association Najdeh, the first women’s NGO working within the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon. We caught up with her on International Women’s Day.

I am inspired by Palestinian women in refugee camps in Lebanon. They have daily social and economic challenges: they have been refugees living in camps for 64 years; they do not have political representation and face discrimination at all levels.

But they are strong, managing violence in the private and public spheres. They manage to keep going.

2014 is the UN Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. We need solidarity with these women. Without solidarity we cannot achieve anything in women’s rights.

On International Women’s Day, please stand with women and girls around the world. Visit our Lent calendar for thoughts and reflections today and throughout Lent >>

Association Najdeh has just finished a 3-year Empowerment, Employment and Advocacy Programme.  With CAFOD’s funding and guidance, we were able to ensure more women get access to appropriate training and  to employment as well as confronting traditional views in the community which often prevent women working, condone violence against women and deny them access to decision-making positions.

Women around the world are facing discrimination and violence, and women are paying more for the global economic crisis. We need to reach a point where all women, particularly Palestinian women, reach full citizenship and equality, where militarisation ends in the Middle East, and where the occupation of Palestine ends so that we can achieve peace and women’s rights.

Women need global solidarity with each other to have one voice and one message: there is no democracy without women’s rights; there can be no women’s rights where we have militarisation and occupation.

The Empowerment, Employment and Advocacy Programme has seen some great successes so far, and we continue to work for a better future for the women we help.

Women’s equality has made positive gains but the world is still unequal. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action.

CAFOD works to uphold the rights of women and girls around the world. Please help us support vital organisations like Association Najdeh. Donate>>

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