How to give better gifts this Christmas

Jack works for CAFOD. He has occasionally received Christmas gifts he didn’t like, but not from you, he loved yours. Here he mulls on the simple switch he (and his relatives) can make, so that Christmas is happier for everyone.

Making a Christmas list

Power rangers toys
Great fun for the 15 minutes they last before your dad steps on them.

Presents make a lot more sense when you’re a kid.

You’ve got no income, except maybe 50p here or there if your parents have deep pockets, or deeper sofa cushions. But you’re surrounded with stuff to want. The cartoons you watch, the comics you read – most of them are little more than adverts for a corresponding range of fluorescent plastic junk. So once a year you make a list and hope you get some of that junk for Christmas. And that’s fine. No-one minds. It’s cute. Because you’re a child.

Find the perfect charity gifts for all your relatives

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Flushing poverty down the toilet

Today is World Toilet Day. Abigail McMillan, in CAFOD’s South West and Wales team reflects on how the humble toilet is an often overlooked life-saver.

Toilets are generally a private subject; my mum would say not to be discussed at the dinner table. But professionally, World Toilet Day makes perfect sense to me. The world can be changed by toilets, and the Church takes toilets very seriously.

Keep a community safe with the gift of a toilet

The UK government will match every pound you donate to CAFOD's Lent appeal up to £5m
The UK government matched your donations in Lent 2016

Following the tremendous response of Catholic parishioners in England and Wales to CAFOD’s Family Fast Day Appeal during Lent 2016, the UK Government doubled the nearly £5m that was donated by the general public. With this, we were able to instigate a water, sanitation and hygiene programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

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Gospel Reflection: What can we offer to others?

This reflection and prayer were written by Joy Wanless from Our Lady of Grace parish, Manchester.

Based on the gospel for Sunday 11 November – Mark 12:38-44

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“But she in her poverty has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.”

It’s easy to judge by our own standards, to sometimes forget that all good gifts come from God. Some have gifts to offer to foodbanks. Some are dependent on food banks for the basics to feed their families. There are those who are permanently hungry who Jesus watches just as closely.

Margaret in Batiama, Sierra Leone, experiences the “hungry season”, while they wait for the harvest.

Margaret was struggling, but her life was changed with a small loan from CAFOD which enabled her to buy supplies and set up a shop in her home.

She received training on how to make her business a success. Margaret now earns enough to support her children. She can pass on the gift of the loan and another family’s lives have been changed.

Change a life with the gift of a small loan

She says, “I want to thank CAFOD for appreciating women – especially widowed women fending for themselves.”

What loan can we offer to others?  Prayer, friendship, time, money, comforts? What do we have to put in the offering?

What can we give which, like the widow’s mite, isn’t just in excess of our needs but is a genuine gift from the heart?

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Prayer

Dear Lord, we thank you for your abundant provisions for our lives. We thank you that you show us the way. You don’t judge. You love.  Let’s put our wealth, a gift from you, in the offering and share your love. Amen.

What our Lent challenges taught us

Hal and Cherrie from London based east-meets-west electronic pop group Ooberfuse have finish their Lent challenges! They told us how they felt being free to enjoy their favourite treats, and what they’ll take away from the experience.

Hal: It’s been a long drawn out ordeal. But then that’s the whole point of a 40 day period of abstinence. I never thought I would miss the discipline required to stay  faithful to my Lenten pledge. As reported earlier, depriving myself of hot food and hot drinks could not have come at a colder time of the year. It was a perfect storm which made the challenge more intensified.

Cherrie: Weirdly I think I miss the afterglow of depriving myself of what previously I considered to be essential – a daily dose of chocolates.

It’s not too late to donate to our Lent appeal and have your donation doubled by the UK Government

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Facing the Beast from the East with no hot food

Hal and Cherrie from London based east-meets-west electronic pop group Ooberfuse have been finding sticking to their Lent Give It Up Challenge a little tricky – especially when Hal had to face the cold of the ‘Beast from the East’ without hot food or drinks!

Hal eating cold food
Hal eating cold chicken in coconut with a cold drink

Hal: Giving up hot food and drink on the basis that it starts with the first letter of my Christian name sounded like a great idea before the season of Lent began. What I never foresaw, however, was that London would experience its coldest winter with temperatures dropping to sub zero levels.

It’s a primitive instinct when you’re cold to take in hot fluids and hot foodstuff. For example, nothing tastes better than a baked potato on a cold winter’s night. So when the Beast from the East burst in to our lives, I was struggling with these basic instincts.

Donate to the CAFOD Lent appeal

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Stopping shopping for Lent

Jeremy, from our Hallam volunteer centre, has never considered himself a ‘shopaholic’. But a shiny new camera lens and a letter from the bank led him to wonder – is there more he could be doing to fight back against the culture of consumption?

I had a shock a few weeks back. For once it wasn’t the emptiness of my bank account, though that was the catalyst. Instead, I was surprised, and a little dismayed, by my powerful attachment to possessions.

A vulture in flight photographed from below by Jeremy Cain
One of Jeremy’s photos – he calls this one ‘a vulture hovering over my bank account’

Let me explain. I’m an occasionally keen amateur photographer and, as we’re planning to visit Mull after Easter, I thought it would be a good idea to buy myself a zoom lens. We’re mostly going for the birds of prey and I had dreams of getting the perfect shot of a sea eagle plucking a fish out from the water. I’d spent days scouring the internet and was on the verge of clicking the buy-it-now button when the bad news from the bank came through. Just for a moment, I was tempted to click anyway but the thought of having to explain to the kids why we had no food to eat held me back. They can be quite aggressive when they’re hungry.

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“Talking The Talk” – Giving up swearing for Lent

Human rights activist and blogger Amy has already had to give up a lot this year. Now she’s decided to give up one more habit for Lent – swearing. She tells us how a broken down car and a serendipitous sermon helped strengthen her resolve to take on the #GiveItUpChallenge.

If I am honest I don’t normally give anything up for Lent.  A number of years back I heard a sermon about how you could try and take something up for Lent instead  giving something up, so that year I decided to pray in my car instead of listening to the radio.  I honestly had the most amazing 40 days and felt so close to God by the end of it.

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Our favourite walks

Throughout England and Wales, hundreds of people are getting ready to Share the Journey with refugees by planning walks in solidarity with those forced to flee. Our free guide can help you organise your own walk – by yourself or in a group, as long as you want and wherever you want! To give you some ideas here are some of our favourite walks.

Jeremy: A walk from Seahouses to Low Newton, Northumberland

For some the Northumberland coast conjures up images of horizontal rain and freezing winds. Instead, imagine long stretches of golden sands, dunes teeming with wildlife and cosy coastal villages.

Park the car at Seahouses, head down to the harbour, trying to resist the ice cream and fish and chip shops, and turn right. The beauty of this walk is that that’s just about all the directions you’ll need: keep the sea close on your left and you’ll be fine!

Once you get to Beadnell harbour- and as long as the tide is out- you can drop down to the beach. If you’re walking with children this is going to slow you down seriously, as they stop to do all the things kids do on beaches, but that’s all part of the fun!

Plan a walk in solidarity with refugees – order a free guide

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Gospel reflection: Anyone who humbles himself will be exalted

Every Friday, we offer you a reflection on the Sunday gospel. This week’s reflection was written by Roisin Beirne, who works in CAFOD’s Legacy team. It is based on the gospel for Sunday 5 November- Matthew 23:1-12.

“Anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Roisin, from our legacy team, would like to share a reflection on this Sunday's gospel reading from Matthew. Please join us in prayer.

Posted by CAFOD on Friday, 3 November 2017

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World Humanitarian Day – a day with Syrian refugees

Each year since 2009, World Humanitarian Day has been held on 19 August to mobilise support for people affected by crises around the world and to pay tribute to all those who risk their lives in humanitarian service. Yadviga Clark, CAFOD’s Emergency Programme Officer for the Syria Crisis response, shares her experiences of visiting Syrian refugees that have settled in Lebanon.

Conflict so often affects innocent people – many flee for their lives, families are torn apart and displaced from their homes, children are traumatised and taken out of school, and aid workers risk their lives to care for people caught up in the violence.

Pray for all those affected by conflict

Last month I spent a day with Syrian refugee children who are living in an informal settlement in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon.

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