Author Archives: sdavison

“Clean water makes life possible.”

Marian from Zimbabwe says the repaired borehole in her village is the answer to her prayers.

On her way to hospital, in an open cart pulled by cattle, Marian thought she was dying from cholera. She remembers little of that journey, just flashes of pain as she fell in and out of consciousness. “I prepared to meet God,” she says. “I feared my children would be motherless.”

Help the world’s poorest families to drink clean water>>

Like so many of her neighbours in Chinyama village, Zimbabwe, Marian had to drink water from a nearby river. “Our borehole had broken. The dribble of water we got was enough for a few families, not a whole community,” she says.

When an outbreak of cholera struck Zimbabwe in 2008, CAFOD took quick action to save lives. In Marian’s village, we repaired the borehole and helped local people get the skills and equipment to fix it in case of future breakdowns.

Setting up health clubs to pass on crucial information about infectious diseases was the next step. Today, local families teach each other about the importance of good hygiene. “Simple methods such as boiling water and washing hands are making a big difference,” says Marian.

Could you do more to help end the world’s water crisis?>>

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Our Christmas appeal: “I just want to sleep at night.”

Existine and her children in the shelter they live in.

Without a safe home, it’s difficult for Existine and her family to move on with their lives.

Like many people in post-war Sri Lanka, Existine is wondering how to rebuild her life. She says a new home would help her family sleep peacefully again…

“My name is Existine and I have five children: four girls and a boy.  My husband was a fisherman and had his own boat. We used to have a house and many coconut trees.

My beloved husband died in the fighting. What kept me going was the thought I could sell coconuts when we got back. But when I returned home, everything of our old life had gone, including our house and land.

Help families find a safe place to call home this Advent>>

I’m living in a temporary shelter with four of my children. My other daughter lives with my sister.

What we need most is a safe home. I cannot sleep at night for fear.

A permanent house would give us security and peace of mind.

I would be able to sleep properly at last.”

CAFOD believes every family should have a safe home for Christmas. Our housing projects provide more than bricks and mortar – they help people find security and peace of mind. What better gift to give this Christmas?

Please donate to our Christmas appeal>>

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Our Christmas appeal: A time for new beginnings

Bishop John Arnold

Bishop John Arnold visited Sri Lanka to see how CAFOD’s house-building projects are helping families start life again.


Bishop John Arnold reflects on his trip to northern Sri Lanka and describes how CAFOD is helping families affected by conflict to begin life again…

“The camps I saw in Sri Lanka didn’t even have half the latrines they needed, and most families were living in tents.

It was a distressing sight.

Yet people held themselves with a remarkable degree of dignity, even amongst the squalor. The first thing they said to me was, ‘we long to get home’.

Help a family find a safe place to call home this Christmas>>

We can feel helpless when faced with some of the problems we see around the world.

But when God sent his son, life was not easy. The experience of his birth was as a refugee in a place where his family couldn’t even find the basics of lodging.

From that beginning springs all the hope that Jesus brought us. And I’d like to think, with our help, that people living without a safe home can find a new purpose and a new beginning this Advent.

I’ve been privileged to see what can be achieved by giving to CAFOD. I have been on the front line of what CAFOD does and I’ve seen real change happen in thousands of people’s lives.

CAFOD helps people find safety, make a living, grow crops and build up small businesses within their own communities.

I really enjoy that sense of new beginning with advent and recognising that it is the beginning of the fulfilment of God’s promise.

Donate to our Christmas appeal>>


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16 days: Life after trauma in Rwanda

Simon Nsabiyeze, CAFOD’s programme officer in Rwanda, talks to a woman in Musha

Simon Nsabiyeze, CAFOD’s programme officer in Rwanda, talks to a woman in Musha

In April 1994, a campaign of brutal ethnic violence swept Rwanda. In the space of 100 days a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

Today, despite taking great strides, Rwanda is still one of the poorest countries in the world. After a long time of numbness, most genocide survivors are just beginning to mourn their loved ones. Simon Nsabiyeze, CAFOD’s country representative for Rwanda, talked to Sarah Davison about the healing process.

My official position is Psycho-social Programme Officer. I work with seven partners to promote trauma healing and contribute to unity and reconciliation in Rwanda.

Most of the NGOs based in Rwanda aren’t interested in funding trauma work for genocide survivors. People are concerned only when a crisis is happening, or about particularly ‘hot’ issues like HIV and AIDS. I think that’s because it’s difficult to see the direct impact of trauma healing work. There is little difference in the short-term but long-term, trauma work will help to heal Rwanda and bring about lasting change.

People went through a brutal period of conflict. You have to help them reintegrate, and meet the former  perpetrators. It’s progressive work – you can’t make someone forgive but you can create the right conditions for forgiveness.

If someone’s family has been wiped out, you can’t bring them back. But you can help to improve their living conditions, renew their confidence and help them understand that life is still possible.

Creating decent living conditions is vital – it’s one of the basic aspects of reconciliation. If you’re living next door to someone who killed your family and they are living a better life than you, it feels unjust.

Our programme works on trauma in many different ways, including access to justice, house rehabilitation, education for children, and promoting peace and reconciliation.

I am a Rwandan. Having local staff is one of CAFOD’s great strengths. As local people, we understand, we can integrate. CAFOD started work just after the genocide. We work to strengthen organisations and listens to Rwandese voices – we don’t dictate.

If you want to promote unity and reconciliation you must work with perpetrators as well as survivors. The church helps everybody, regardless of their history. If you reinforce people to focus on themselves and their groups, you reinforce the divide.

We bring groups together in church . Before, people would pray together but they weren’t sharing emotions, they didn’t have peace in their minds. Now people are sitting together, sharing food together, sharing problems.

Responding to additional needs, not only trauma, is so important. You can counsel someone but at the end of the session they might have to sleep rough because they are homeless. Or we might do group counselling with a woman who says: “thanks for your help but I have five children who don’t go to school. What can I do?”

In the last five years, our partners have been able to respond to some of these needs. They have gained confidence and we are reaching more people than ever before.

People in Rwanda are regaining hope. They’re saying “I need to get on with life, I need to start a business”.

Today you see widows who want to get involved in group associations. They understand that engaging in a CAFOD project, is engaging in a ‘life’ project. They see a future ahead.


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Our Christmas appeal: Home for Christmas

Surenthiran and her family love their new home

When Surenthiran’s home was destroyed in Sri Lanka’s  civil war, her family spent years living in camps and shelters.

 Here, she describes the joy of having a safe home for Christmas…  “Soldiers burst into our village. They took our home, so we moved to a camp.

When we went back, our house was gone so we lived in a mud hut on our rice field.

No words can describe our suffering.  I would think: ‘How long must we bear this?  Will we live or will we die? ’

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