The Chesham Union of Catholic Mothers (UCM) group at St. Columba’s RC Church have a long history of supporting CAFOD’s work with our partners in Brazil. Starting from fundraising to supporting children in need in general, they explain how they came to be a Connect2: Brazil parish.
We have always raised money for children who were in need and following a presentation about sewer children in Mexico, we decided to change the focus to South America. Parishioners, past and present, of St. Columba’s RC Church in Chesham have regularly and for many years donated to CAFOD via the CAFOD Envelopes. CAFOD has been an organisation dearly close to our hearts and is always well supported within the parish.
Maggie Guy is a CAFOD volunteer from Birmingham diocese. Here she tells us how her parish has been fundraising for the Connect2: Ethiopia scheme.
Our Parish of Corpus Christi in Headington (Oxford) and Our Lady of Lourdes in Wheatley started supporting the community of Sebeya in Ethiopia in 2015. The project has really captured the enthusiasm of the parish and so far we have raised over £3,000.
We have raised money through a variety of activities: In April we had an Ethiopian evening where we enjoyed some delicious Ethiopian food, held a traditional coffee ceremony and had an illustrated talk from Tony Fitzgerald, a parishioner from our previous Parish in Camberley, who had visited the area. His pictures of a completed irrigation project in nearby Biera, supported by CAFOD Connect2, were profoundly moving; we could see a green valley, in marked contrast to the surrounding arid region, which should help protect the community from drought. Continue reading “Connect2: Ethiopia: Standing with Sebeya”
Some of our supporters in England and Wales have been supporting communities in Ethiopia for a number of years through the Connect2 Ethiopia scheme. This project links a parish to a village where money raised has been helping people become self-sufficient.
For six years Henry and Nuala Rosenvinge, have organised their own plant and cake sale for CAFOD. This year’s event raised an incredible £2,500, which was especially poignant given the heartbreaking drought in Ethiopia. Here Henry writes about how one neighbourhood connects to another.
In 2012, Connect2: Brazil parishes sent a petition to the São Paulo local government with 3,000 signatures, supporting families living in the Mauá building who were facing eviction. At that time, the government agreed to suspend the eviction order, and to look into converting the building into social housing. They also agreed to convert a former textile factory, Prestes Maia, in to flats. The process since then has not been smooth, with the 378 families in Prestes Maia facing another eviction order just last year, in September 2015.
Finally, a month later, following 15 years of campaigning and advocacy by homeless families and our partner, APOIO, the local government of Sao Paulo signed over more than £4 million for the compulsory purchase of the Prestes Maia building. This abandoned building in the centre of Sao Paulo hosts the second largest occupation in Latin America. This community has lived through 26 judicial eviction orders, only two of which were successful. The news of the compulsory purchase represents a fantastic victory for APOIO and the 1000 strong community, as the building is now planned to be converted into social housing. Continue reading “Connect2: Brazil – Victory for 378 families living in Prestes Maia Building”
Katie Thilthorpe works in the CAFOD Schools Team. She recently received a batch of letters and work from children in XII Apostles Primary School in Lancashire who have been exploring life in El Salvador.
“After I saw your beautiful landscape I wished I could live in El Salvador but the only thing that makes me sad is the water pollution. That’s why we are raising money for your country and right now we have £500. When we raise enough we will send it to CAFOD and they will send it to you. I hope that you will have nice clean water and I hope to see you and the Sierra Madre mountains one day.” Olivia, Year 4.
Since its release in 2015 primary schools across England and Wales have been using CAFOD’s El Salvador geography photo pack, including XII Apostles Primary School in Lancashire. All the children in the school aged 7-11 have been using the resources, and in March the pupils wrote letters to the four children featured in the pack. The school kindly sent some of the letters to us and I was lucky enough to read them.
The El Salvador pack, which can be ordered or downloaded online, includes a country map, information sheets, photo cards and links to brilliant online films, which bring the stories and themes from the pack to life. Continue reading “Learning about climate in class”
In 2014 Fidel and Julia shared how the Connect2: El Salvador community were starting to renovate their chapel. Since then, lots of work has taken place, and the chapel in Puentecitos looks very different now. It is built of brick, rather than clay, which means it should be more resistant to earthquake damage, and it is also a lot bigger. Fidel says: “We got the walls and roof on in about five months. We had some help to buy some of the materials, and the rest we raised ourselves by holding raffles and other fundraising activities.”
There is still some work to be done: the floor is unfinished, and there is a bit of electrical wiring to finish too, but Fidel says, these are “finishing touches”. They also plan to put a tabernacle on a shelf behind the altar and display the mementoes that Connect2 parishes have sent them.
Fiona has written from her Step into the Gap visit to Peru about how she is seeing the corporal acts of mercy in action in CAFOD’s work:
During this Year of Mercy, we are called to act upon the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. And so, while in Peru, I’ve been reflecting on the corporal acts in particular. It seems that they don’t need to be taken literally, as I’d first thought. I thought I’d take this time to focus on CAFOD partner CEAS who we’ve had the privilege of spending time with during this trip. They are the organisation for social action set up by the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference.
Of all the corporal acts of mercy, I find that ‘welcoming the stranger’ is a particularly challenging one. It’s God’s call for us to put the faith and trust we have in Him into a complete stranger’s hands. It can be difficult to open our hearts—let alone our homes—to people that we know nothing about. Still, families have been doing just that—and more!—for us gap year volunteers here in Peru. The relationship built between CAFOD partners such as CEAS and the local community has enabled this faith and trust to exist.
Fiona Sim is one of our gap year volunteers. Here are some of her reflections from her first week seeing projects CAFOD supports in Peru:
From working with the dynamic children of Warmi Huasi to meeting the inspirational residents of Lomas de Carabayllo, it has been a jam-packed first week of our journey. Though it’s been quite an intense week, I feel so privileged to have been able to meet and learn from so many amazing people already. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel like I’ve met some of the real life super heroes of our time. These people have no special powers, no soothsaying abilities, and no fancy capes. This is what they do have: resilience, strength, and a kitchen at their fingertips.
These are the wonderful women of two of Lomas de Carabayllo’s comedors. These communal kitchens provide a subsidised lunch to people who need it in the community—those who would struggle to afford hearty meals otherwise—from Monday to Friday. The staff members themselves are part of the same community and earn free meals through working at the comedor when they can.
On Wednesday 19 August, the EU Ambassador to Brazil, João Gomes Cravinho, visited families in São Paulo where our partners, APOIO and MDF work, which has support from the EU.
During his visit, the Ambassador heard first-hand about the struggle of 450 families facing poverty and at risk of eviction in North São Paulo. With support and accompaniment from APOIO, the families have successfully negotiated with local government, a delay to the eviction order by 3 months. They have also secured a commitment from authorities to conduct a vulnerability assessment, which identifies people for referral to public housing and social programmes. Negotiations and dialogue with authorities to rehouse or provide permanent housing solutions for these families are on-going.
Several people told the Ambassador about the importance of this work. The Ambassador met resident Marcela Aparecida Neves, aged 26, who looks after her three daughters aged, 7, 6 and 18 months in Brasilândia.
She says, “Rents in São Paulo are prohibitively high. We were not able to pay rent and put food on the table for our children at the same time. Here we have found solidarity with other families and hope to provide our children with a more dignified life.”
The Ambassador also visited a new social housing unit, Conjunto Minas Gás II, now home to 100 previously homeless families. For 15 years these families struggled for their right to access decent housing and with the support of the project’s accompaniment, information, capacity building and community-based advocacy work, they have finally achieved their own home.
Claudete Amorim, one of the new residents, explained what the support of this project had meant for the families, “With the support of CAFOD and the EU through the Urban Programme, we had guidance about the decisions we were making which helped us to get to where we are today. We had meetings and demonstrations, and met key actors to demand our rights. Then in 2013 the building works started and in June 2014 we moved in.” She remembers the emotion of the moment, “When I entered my home for the first time the first thing I did was give thanks to God. It was a long fight, with many tears, but now all I feel is gratitude. My son couldn’t believe it. We used to live in a tiny room with a bathroom outside. When he saw his own bedroom he could not believe it.”
Claudete now has a home, and like other families in these apartments she is paying a mortgage at a level she is able to afford, but she continues to support other homeless families still struggling to access decent and sustainable housing.
Orla, from London, recently spent a week volunteering at the CAFOD Romero House office. Find out why she thinks young people care about climate change, and who inspired her during her time with the CAFOD team.
As an internet-savvy teenager, I have the sort of constant access, 24 hours a day, to the world via social media that my parents never even dreamt of. It’s all there, virtually, and for better or worse, at the touch of a button. News is readily available, telling me stories from half way across the world that I share while sitting on my sofa at home.
For my generation, therefore, the world seems like a smaller place than ever before. And that is reinforced by living and going to school in London. I am part of one of the most ethnically diverse communities anywhere on the globe. In my year group of 96 at my Catholic school, I am one of only four whose parents and grandparents were born and brought up in the UK. So I can learn about such a variety of different cultures by just talking to the person sitting next to me in class.
Speaking Up on 17 June
When looking around my class I know of many members of my friendship group who feel too swept up in the shallowness and unfulfilment that comes with social media. One of the integral parts of my Catholic school is to reach out and help others through charity work. Therefore I know of so many of my peers who seized the opportunity to take part in the Speak Up for the Love of… climate lobby on the 17 June.
I believe that young people in our society often get the reputation of being uncaring delinquents. However, I speak for many my age when I stress that being a teenager in a world where suffering is so present, where the future of the planet we have to grow up in seems to be spiralling out of control, where the effects of climate change are already being seen, really terrifies us and leaves us feeling powerless.