Why are young people at the heart of what we do?

Chris Knowles works in our education team. In this blog he explains why young leadership is essential to CAFOD’s work.

Our new Hands On project in Colombia has young leadership at its heart because young people are not just the future of our world, but as Rosana, involved in the project in Colombia says;

“We have a responsibility towards our country, we are the present”. Rosana

Read about our latest Hands On project

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Back to school: Our work with children and young people

Monica Conmee works in our education team. In this blog she explains why education is such an important part of CAFOD’s work.

My dear young people, a better world can be built as a result of your efforts, your desire to change, and your generosity. Pope Francis

CAFOD is nothing without faith, our international partners and people. I am constantly amazed at the insights, ideas and sheer determination of people to build a more just and peaceful world. When given the chance to reflect and learn, these actions can combine to make a significant impact on our world and in our communities. Pope Francis’ address to young people earlier this year reminds us how much of a difference young people can make.

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Give it up: my caffeine fast

Charlotte Atkins is a youth leader from Bristol taking the give it up challenge this Lent. Charlotte works in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle with the Youth Ministry Team.

“Why on earth are you giving up coffee for Lent? Are you brave or foolish?”

Charlotte is fundraising for CAFOD this Lent as part of the give it up challenge
Charlotte is taking the give it up challenge this Lent

Coffee is a common item to give up for Lent, considering how many people drink some sort of hot beverage, whether that be coffee or tea, every single day. It becomes a part of our everyday lives. We get up, get ready and have  a cup of coffee with breakfast. Or, if you’re anything like me, get up and go straight to the kettle. It becomes ritualistic, a need to wake up and to get through the day. I have decided to give coffee up to get myself out of this routine, and to also have a think about what is truly important in our everyday lives.

Donate to CAFOD’s Lent appeal

I want to think about what we need versus what we want. Coffee is definitely not something I need, despite what I often think. If more of us were to take these steps into thinking what do we need and what do others really need, I believe we could take these small steps to making an impact in the world.

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Give it up: visiting schools this Lent

Gillie Drinkall is a CAFOD school volunteer who has been visiting schools in South London to talk about Zimbabwe, and to introduce the Lent Give it up challenge. 

Gillie is a school volunteer who has been sharing stories from Zimbabwe this Lent as part of the give it up appeal
Gillie delivering the CAFOD Lent assembly.

A primary school in South London.  A very small boy approached me and apologised for not being at my previous assembly as he was in hospital.  He then confided, with breathless excitement, “It’s my birthday in six days’ time!”. I wished him “Happy Birthday … in six days’ time” and turned to a slightly older boy who wanted to know how to give money to CAFOD as soon as possible.  I was reminded how much I enjoy talking to small children.

I have scheduled visits to an unusually high number of schools this Lent to share stories from Zimbabwe and to talk about the Give it up challenge.  As ever, until the first assembly unfolds, I am never quite sure how the children will respond.  This time I was going to try and show all the schools the short film featuring Svondo and his mother Marian who live in Zimbabwe.

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Back to school: A parent’s reflection

This week Claire Bolt is helping her daughter prepare to start school. In this blog she talks about her hopes for the year ahead.

Claire is a parent preparing to go back to school
Claire with her family.

My eldest daughter is starting school in September. Honestly, despite the‘time flies’ warnings you get from elderly aunts, I can’t quite believe it. As the start date draws nearer, I’m remembering Kathleen’s baby stage with glee (sleepless nights, what sleepless nights?), watching with pride as she runs around the park, or grins down at me when she makes it to the top of the climbing frame. She’s only little so what am I doing buying pinafores and black shoes and hair bands to match her uniform?

Getting ready to go back to school? Check out our top tips for teachers

And then comes the panic. How on earth will we get out of the house on time every morning when just getting dressed or having breakfast can take the best part of an hour? What if she doesn’t like her teacher? Will she make friends? Deep breath. Reception, here we come.

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Blessed Oscar Romero’s influence continues today

To commemorate 100 years since the birth of Blessed Oscar Romero, CAFOD PR manager Kemi Bamgbose spoke to several people who continue to be inspired by Romero’s  powerful legacy today.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador who was brutally assassinated in 1980.

Archbishop Romero was beatified in 2015 and today he is recognised across the world for his commitment to social justice – practically demonstrating the love of God by defending the rights of the poorest and most marginalised communities in El Salvador.

His life and legacy continues to inspire many people to be a voice for the voiceless. Meet those lives have been transformed by his work.

Rebecca Haile, Bangladesh Programme Officer, CAFOD

I first came across ‘A step along the way’ prayer when I was at school and then several years later when my Mum gave me a printed copy when I first considered moving into International Development after finishing University.

I even referenced this Romero-inspired prayer in my first CAFOD interview several years ago! The prayer really resonates with me and constantly reminds me why CAFOD’s work is so important and much needed.

As the poem sums up, we may not be able to solve every problem we face but there’s value in our contribution, no matter how small. And we might not see the fruits of our work in our lifetime but we’re building the necessary foundations for the future. This is a really humbling and beautiful sentiment.

Juan Garcia, Farmer, El Salvador

“Monseñor Romero spoke a lot for the poor. We went to his funeral in 1980. Some people came to tell our cooperative that the funeral would happen and took us there for free. I was there when the army started to fire on us. Monseñor Romero died for speaking the truth in favour of the poor. You felt he was a person who helped the poor. Everything he did was good. The president was doing a lot of bad things to us in the cooperatives, but Oscar Romero did things in favour of us. And for this, we love him.”

Find out more about the life of Blessed Oscar Romero

Bernadette Goddard, Seville, Spain

“I first came across Blessed Oscar Romero when I started volunteering with CAFOD almost 10 years ago. As part of my year with CAFOD step into the Gap I had the privilege of travelling to Nicaragua. There, I met the sisters, who were giving a voice to children, young people and women in poor and rural areas. Seeing this work in action reminded me of Romero’s compassion for the poor and his desire to be a voice for the voiceless.

After returning from Nicaragua a friend shared a profound Romero phrase which I now hold in my heart: “Each one of you has to be God’s microphone.” I have met many people in my life who have a voice which is not heard for whatever reason. As each of us are made in the image and likeness of God we have a responsibility to be a microphone of justice and peace for each other – just as Romero said.”

 Anthony, pupil

“I learnt about Archbishop Romero at schools and the values he lived by which inspired him to give his life to help the poor.  He was courageous because he needed to be brave to help other people. He also had hope because he had faith God even in a situation like the one he was in. Oscar Romero also had love because he loved the poor people enough to give his life for them.”

Take a look at our education resources on the life of Blessed Oscar Romero

Susy Brouard, Theology Programme Advisor, CAFOD

“I have seen the Romero film three times – the first being in my early 20s. The film had a profound impact on me. Romero is an inspiration for anyone and everyone. He was a traditional bookworm – the last person you would expect to get involved with challenging the government and the army. But following the murder of his good friend, Rutilio Grande and the increasing injustices he witnessed, he couldn’t help but act. Only God could have inspired him to put his life on the line in this way.

There are many things I admire about Romero but one of them was Romero regularly included the names of those who had been tortured and murdered in his homilies – such was his dedication. Romero was the voice of the oppressed. He inspired me to not only work for social justice but to work for CAFOD and to challenge the structures which oppress people and prevent human flourishing.”

Find out more about our Romero-inspired retreats happening this Autumn

Great Generation: walking for refugees

Molly is a year 10 student from London who spent part of the summer on work experience with CAFOD in the education team. In this blog she writes about her experience taking a pilgrimage in solidarity with refugees.

“I met so many people with such amazing and inspiring stories of their life, and how they had come to this country wanting safety and peace.” Molly

Lampedusa crosses made by Francisco Tuccio
Supporters across the UK have been carrying Lampedusa crosses on pilgrimages of solidarity with refugees

In May my dad, brother and I walked the 74 mile pilgrimage from London to Canterbury  with 100 other people. The pilgrimage is an annual event which is run by ‘The Connection’ at St-Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, London, and this year was its 26th pilgrimage.

We started from St Martin-in-the-fields church on the Friday morning and finished at Canterbury Cathedral on the Monday afternoon. The pilgrimage was to help fundraise and raise money for homeless people and refugees around London and in our country, and the pilgrimage was also a chance to have fun and meet new people.

Sign up to march for refugees this Saturday

When I was on the walk I talked to so many new people, including some refugees who  did not have any were to stay, but they go to ‘The Connection’ at St Martins where volunteers give them a place to shower, eat, wash their clothes etc.

Download our pilgrimage for young people

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Welcoming CAFOD into our school

Lucy Collins is Head of RE at Carmel College. In this blog she reflects on welcoming CAFOD volunteers to run workshops at school, and the impact of CAFOD’s training with teachers.

‘We love these sessions as we get to think about how our faith has such an impact on the lives of others and the world we live in. It makes it real and makes us realise we can actually make a difference, even if it is just a small one for now.’
– Student at Carmel College.

carmel-college
Students taking part in CAFOD workshops

This year we welcomed back CAFOD for what have now become our annual workshops with Years 9 and 10, and we we were delighted that CAFOD would so readily support us by returning to our college.

CAFOD worked with us to create exciting activities which complimented our new GCSE specification preparations alongside current curriculum requirements. It was amazing how they were able to provide materials which allowed our students to access Church documents and encyclicals so easily and joyfully!

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Experiences of being a young leader

As a new term begins, CAFOD’s Elouise Hobbs spoke to young leader Jouriz, from Chertsey, about her experiences and advice for those thinking of taking part this September. 

Jouriz at other young leaders at the CAFOD away day in Romero House
Jouriz at other young leaders at the CAFOD away day in Romero House

Over the last academic year CAFOD has worked with 245 young people from across seven dioceses as part of CAFOD’s young leadership programme. These young people spent the year learning about justice issues and developing leadership skills. Collectively they have reached around 65,000 people through their campaigning, speaking at Mass, fundraising, assemblies, blogs and tweets.

In the last academic year, Jouriz took part in the CAFOD young leadership programme; when I met her, she was presenting to lower forms from her school about the impact of CAFOD.

Learn how you can get involved in the young leadership programme

You recently attended the end of year Young Leadership celebration day with CAFOD. Do you have a moment that particularly sticks out for you?

“My favourite moment was actually at the beginning of the day. We had just arrived and as an ice-breaker we had to go round the tables and meet everyone. When we went around the tables with just a 30-second gap. It was so fast. I only had a short time to make a conversation and crack a joke. Even though it was only a short amount of time, it actually allowed me to get to know people really well. It was so much fun travelling up to London and getting to meet all the different people.”

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Hopes for the new school year

This week mother-of-three Catherine Jones is saying goodbye to the summer holidays and preparing for a new school term. In this blog she talks about her hopes for the year ahead.

CAFOD children going back to school
The children going back to school

The youngest of our three children, Martha, starts in year 1 this week. And after the summer break, my immediate thoughts are practical. How on earth will we all manage to be out of the house before 8.30am? Where is the favourite Star Wars lunch box? Do the PE kits still fit?

Explore CAFOD’s Education resources

I remember different feelings a year ago, when Martha began in reception. We had celebrated her 4th birthday just days before and now she was off to big school. She looked so small in her uniform, with her huge school bag and shiny new shoes. How would she react when we had to say goodbye at the door? Would the teacher allow her to keep hold of her cuddly monkey?

And the fears don’t go away. Will school restrict Martha’s curiosity and imagination? Will she make friends? Trying to support her and her big brother and sister as they come to the realisation that there are people in their class and the world who are very different to them.

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