International Day of Peace – 21 September 2015

Tabitha Ross is a CAFOD freelancer who works in Lebanon. On International Day of Peace she tells us about Eman and Hanigal – two mothers who have been forced to leave their homes in Syria because of the ongoing conflict.

Eman’s story

Eman's nieces in Lebanon
Eman’s nieces in Lebanon

Sitting on a blanket on the grass in the warmth of the sun, Eman looks shell-shocked to find herself in Lebanon, safe from the fear of violence for the first time in nearly four years. When I meet her, she has been here just over two weeks.

Despite coming from Daraa, the region of Syria where the uprising first began on 15 March 2011, and which has seen bitter fighting and bombing, Eman only decided to flee the country this year.

I ask what was the final straw, after so much suffering, that pushed her to leave. With tears in her eyes she said: “At the start of the war my husband disappeared, so I didn’t want to leave because I had the idea that he would come back. But in February my house was bombed and destroyed, so I decided to come here.”

Please support our Refugee Crisis Appeal

Eman tells me how she and her four children spent three days on the road from Daraa to Damascus. Reaching the capital, they spent two nights sleeping in the freezing street. Finally a taxi driver took pity on them and brought them here to Lebanon, where she is staying with a cousin in an unfinished breeze block construction in the Bekaa Valley.

“I feel ashamed because I have no money and the family that I am staying with have barely any money either. Maybe we eat one day and then for three days we do not, because we don’t have the money to buy food,” she said. Continue reading “International Day of Peace – 21 September 2015”

My Harvest Fast Day – a day in solidarity with those who do not have enough

Rosemary has supported CAFOD for over 30 years – buying World Gifts, taking part in LiveSimply, praying for our partners around the world, and even running the London Marathon. Rosemary tells us why giving is important to her and what her plans are for Harvest Fast Day.

Justice in my family

Rosemary after running the London Marathon for CAFOD in 2015
Rosemary after running the London Marathon for CAFOD in 2015

When my husband and I first moved to Norwich, about 34 years ago, our finances were quite tricky. We prayed and decided we would put God first. We decided to tithe our income and give 10 per cent back to the Lord for his Kingdom work. A big proportion of our funds went to CAFOD. We wanted our tithing to go towards justice and peace work because we believe there has to be justice before there can be peace. How can people live peacefully in their hearts when others are struggling? As Pope Paul said: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

Download Fast Day resources to help you organise a Fast Day collection in your parish.

I brought my children up to think about justice within the family and being fair. We don’t take things from each other without asking because we’re depriving that person of a chance to be generous. If you’re asked, the kind thing is to say: “Yes, you may borrow it.” But you have to ask first, otherwise you’re taking from that person and presuming they’ll be generous. Then they can have the blessing from making a good choice. Continue reading “My Harvest Fast Day – a day in solidarity with those who do not have enough”

Speaking at Mass for CAFOD Fast Days

Ged Edwards, Volunteer Coordinator in Liverpool reflects on the incredible contribution from volunteers who speak at Mass.

Ged Edwards, Diocesan Manager in Salford
Ged Edwards

Today, we are more aware than ever of other countries and of the lives of our brothers and sisters across the world. For many Catholics, this awareness goes way beyond booking the next holiday, and our relationship with our global family is especially close at key times of the year. Lent and Harvest Fast Days are times when we are particularly aware of our sisters and brothers overseas. At this time, we think about the support the Church offers through CAFOD.

Lent 2015 – Kyin Nu

During Lent this year, we introduced you to Kyin Nu – a woman from Myanmar who lost her two eldest children to a cyclone in 2008. Kyin Nu and her husband now have one precious daughter left. As the family faced terrible loss and powerlessness, CAFOD worked with our partner in Myanmar to help Kyin Nu’s community to restore buildings, farms and fisheries, and to construct new land defences. We have worked to make sure that next time – and, sadly, there will be a next time – Kyin Nu’s community know how to stay safe. Kyin Nu knows where to safely store her food so it doesn’t get ruined by salt water, where to run to when she hears the warning signal, and her daughter knows to pack an emergency bag filled with essentials like water, food and a blanket.

Volunteer to speak at Mass – contact your local CAFOD office

Carmel Donnelly, one of our volunteers in Salford, shared Kyin Nu’s story with her parish at Mass during Lent. A real person giving an account from their heart helps people to understand what’s going on in the world and what they can do to help. Carmel told me: “It was good to hear of a personal story, as it related to real people in need.” Continue reading “Speaking at Mass for CAFOD Fast Days”

Hands On Kitui: “I am hopeful for the future”

Stella lives in Kitui, Kenya, where our first Hands On project has been running for just over a year. Stella has been getting hands on with her community to rebuild a dam and bring water back to the area. She tells us about the progress her community have made.

Stella in her farm in Kitui - CAFODWater in Kitui

The soil in Kitui is not good at capturing water and the land is bare and rocky. There isn’t much greenery around. Sometimes it can be rainy, but the long rains are in April, May and June. The short rains are in October, November and December. These are best for the soil because they refresh the earth.

Before the Hands On project, I could only harvest a small amount of land. We have a big water problem, but with the dam, we have a solution. The dam will solve my biggest problem – that of having to walk 7km to the Athi River for water.

Find out about our second Hands On project in Doutchi, Niger

Farming techniques

As part of the Hands On project, I learned how to farm. I have dug terraces because they are good for the land. It will mean seeds don’t run down the hillsides and water doesn’t destroy the land. And I have planted crops using zai pits, which are made of vegetation, manure and soil. Continue reading “Hands On Kitui: “I am hopeful for the future””

Pope Francis speaks up for our common home

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, from Manila in the Philippines, is President of CAFOD partner Caritas Internationalis. He reflects on Pope Francis’ encyclical and the devastating typhoon that hit his country in 2013.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle - Caritas - CAFODI do not need to tell the people in my country that we are living in a time of crisis. When Typhoon Haiyan caused widespread devastation across the Philippines in November 2013, it was immaterial as to whether it was caused by climate change or not; people suffered and the poorest were hit hardest. In such times of crisis what should our response be?

Climate change affects the dignity of the most vulnerable

In the Encyclical Laudato Si’ released this week, Pope Francis acknowledges the seriousness of climate change and how it is affecting the dignity of the most vulnerable, as well as the harmony between humans and nature. In the light of the Gospel of Creation, he calls us all to urgently respond to protect the gift of creation and the richness of life. He challenges us all, governments, businesses and citizens, to look deep within ourselves and find a common answer reflecting all peoples’ voices, for the appropriate response is not an easy or simple issue to be solved. This is a deeply rooted problem, which goes to the heart of who we are and our values.

Find prayers inspired by Laudato Si’

In line with his predecessors, Pope Francis is looking at the signs of the times that confront us. Laudato Si’ is a powerful and inspiring document calling us to a greater solidarity with the environment, a solidarity that binds the caring for people and caring for the environment. We must recalibrate our relationship with nature, the garden God has created for us, which we have looked upon as a subordinate to our desires and extracted from mercilessly without fear of the consequences.

The environmental crisis is affecting our brothers and sisters worldwide

I hear more and more from my brothers and sisters across the world about how the environmental crisis is already affecting them. CAFOD has reported that more than 400 million of the world’s poorest people – more than the total population of the USA and the UK put together – are most at risk from the impacts of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the leading scientific authority on the issue whose findings are backed by governments worldwide – has said with 95 percent certainty in its 2013 report that humans are the main cause of climate change. Pope Francis writes that climate change is “one of the principal challenges facing humanity” where the “huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world.” Continue reading “Pope Francis speaks up for our common home”

Speak Up climate lobby – making my voice heard

Sarah Hagger-Holt, CAFOD’s Campaigns Engagement Manager, tells us about her experience at the Speak Up climate lobby.

CAFOD climate lobby of parliamentOn 17 June, 9,000 people came to Westminster to speak to their MPs about climate change as part of The Climate Coalition Speak Up For the Love Of lobby of Parliament. They came in twos and threes or in coach-loads. For some it was a simple tube ride, while others got up before dawn or even travelled down by overnight bus. They came from almost every UK constituency.

Couldn’t make it to the lobby? It’s not too late to speak up

I spotted many familiar faces from past marches and lobbies, as well groups of schoolchildren experiencing their first taste of campaigning for change. I saw parents with their babies sleeping in slings, and caught up with a group of Sisters, all well into their 70s, having the time of their lives waving their banners and chatting to other CAFOD supporters.

It can be lonely to be a campaigner

It can be lonely to be a campaigner. I sometimes feel that my voice is tiny compared to the global systems that dominate our world. But this was a day when we were strong: in numbers, in diversity and in commitment for a world where all can flourish. Continue reading “Speak Up climate lobby – making my voice heard”

Pedal Against Poverty 2015

Jon Stricklin-Coutinho, Manager for Westminster Diocese, tells us why you should Pedal Against Poverty.

Pedal Against Poverty for CAFOD
Pedal Against Poverty annual bike ride

For nearly a decade CAFOD supporters from Westminster, Southwark and Brentwood have come together in the Lee Valley to Pedal Against Poverty. On Sunday 7 June almost 200 cyclists will be taking over the tow paths for a morning, just as they do every summer. Incredibly, in this ninth year of the event, our combined fundraising total over the years should reach £100,000!

Sign up to Pedal Against Poverty on Sunday 7 June 2015

So what can attendees expect on the day? As CAFOD’s Manager for Westminster Diocese, my day starts at Ponders End Lock – the starting point of our more challenging 19 mile route – at 10:15am. Riders can also choose the more family-friendly ten mile distance, with these riders congregating at Cheshunt. There’s a real party atmosphere as everyone picks up their ride number, with our volunteers registering the most spontaneous of our riders and giving out last-minute CAFOD vests and t-shirts. My responsibility is the safety briefing (we are cycling along a tow path after all!) and checking that everyone has a helmet. Then there’s the obligatory group photo before the shout is given and the cyclists are off! Continue reading “Pedal Against Poverty 2015”

Syria crisis: what’s it like to live without light?

Nick Harrop - CAFOD World News Officer
Nick Harrop


Four years since the start of the Syria crisis, Nick Harrop, CAFOD’s World News Officer, looks at what life is like for those living in Syria.

“I am worried for my children,” says a mother who fled to Lebanon. “They need to get an education. But I don’t feel safe to go home. Sadly I feel there is no future for my children in Syria now.”

“For four years, we have been living in the depths of the cold in a bloody war,” says a CAFOD partner delivering aid in Syria. “War has left us without any way to defend ourselves against the cold. We have no electricity most of the time, no fuel and no gas. We have no way to stay warm apart from putting on many layers of clothes, which don’t help so much when it’s minus eight degrees.”

Support those in Syria

“We used to have a home and a settled life,” says a father who has fled to a refugee camp in Jordan. “Our children went to school each day. But now…” – he shakes his head – “there is nothing left.”

How the crisis started

It is four years since a small group of demonstrators staged a protest against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. Within days, the protests spread, and several people were killed. It was a serious political crisis, and a significant moment in the so-called Arab Spring, but few would have imagined that it would turn into the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the twenty-first century. Continue reading “Syria crisis: what’s it like to live without light?”

Building a future after Myanmar’s biggest natural disaster

By Mark Chamberlain, Communications Officer

Martin - emergency drill - Myanmar - DRR CAFOD (2)
Martin, Myanmar

Martin was six when his small bamboo home in Myanmar’s southwestern jungle was blown away by a terrifying 145mph tropical storm.

I ask him what he remembers most from that night and the small, talkative boy is quiet for a few seconds, then smiles nervously: “I couldn’t hear other people calling out or crying, I could just hear the screaming voice of the wind.”

In minutes, houses where generations of people had lived were snatched from the ground and splintered across the land. Essentials like food, money and clothes were thrown into the nearby river and for miles across the land. Countless people were killed. In one village down the river, one out of every two were taken by the wind.

“It was dark and the wind was all around,” Martin says of that Friday in 2008. “My dad picked me up from our home and ran and ran. We didn’t know where to go or where to hide, but we went to the school.”

Donate to CAFOD’s Lent Appeal

Myanmar – the country formerly known as ‘Burma’ – faces small, localised cyclones every year. But nothing on the scale of Cyclone Nargis. Martin’s family, like many others in the village, ran in that May darkness, but they didn’t know where to or what to do when they arrived at their destination. Rebecca Murphy, CAFOD’s disaster risk reduction expert says: “This is the key moment when the initial effects of a disaster can be managed. So many lives can be saved just by ensuring a community has access to an early warning system, knows where to go and what to do when a cyclone hits.” Continue reading “Building a future after Myanmar’s biggest natural disaster”

Lent 2015: How to prepare for a disaster

By Nick Harrop, World News Officer

“The wind was circulating fast and glass was flying everywhere,” says Flora Badanoy, 39. “The roof was blown off by the gale. It felt like there was an earthquake. We were terrified. Then the hwater started coming in, with a strong current. We opened the front door and more water came gushing in. I thought it was the end of our lives.”

The Guiuan peninsula in the Philippines was the very first place to be hit by Typhoon Haiyan, shortly after midnight on 8 November 2013. Winds of up to 170 mph struck the coast and huge waves swept in from the sea, flooding coastal villages like Flora’s.

Palo, Leyte Island, Philippines - devastation after Typhoon Haiyan
Devastation in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan

“We were not expecting it to be a special typhoon,” says Flora. “The local officials told us we had to evacuate, but they didn’t say it would be so powerful. We were not warned that there would be floods. We’d heard there would be a ‘storm surge’, but we didn’t understand what the phrase meant. It wasn’t a phrase we used in our language.”

Help people like Flora whose lives are being affected by storms, droughts and floods.

Flora remembers the roar of the wind – so loud that she couldn’t hear herself shout – and the terror her children felt as water came flooding in under the door. Continue reading “Lent 2015: How to prepare for a disaster”