Alice Bowers reflects on the final few days spent in Peru by the Step into the Gap volunteers:
Our final days here in Peru have been spent with CAFOD partners EDUCA and IES who work on helping young people start businesses and to understand and counteract violence, amongst other things. It has been so nice to see first-hand the work of our partners. These two are no exception with the hope they offer for the future of Peru and the successes of the projects they run. They are constantly changing and adapting to the needs that arise for the people they work with. They are so grateful to CAFOD and its supporters.
“Salir adelante” is a phrase that has been used predominantly in these three weeks. It means “to move forward”. This has been something striking about people here in Peru, and the work that CAFOD’s partners are doing through the backing of supporters. People gain real satisfaction from working towards that goal. It has been seen in young people standing up for their rights and against violence, right through to the older generations working in collaboration, partly for company but also to take action together. Continue reading “Step into the Gap Peru – Working together “
Michelle Udoh, one of CAFOD’s gap year volunteers in Peru, has written about the impact of meeting women supported by our partner, Solidaridad:
CAFOD has worked with the NGO Solidaridad since 1997. It promotes women’s empowerment, especially women living in poverty. In Lima, Solidaridad works in Lomas de Carabayllo. Their work has always been about the women, about their self-esteem, about knowing what your rights are and being able to exercise them. Through workshops, Solidaridad has trained many women in skills such as cooking, pastry making, sewing, and hairdressing, with the hope that they will be able to gain financial independence.
When we went to visit Sweet Temptations, the baking company that was set up by some of the women Solidaridad supports, we spent a day in the life of the women who work there: helping them bake, selling their pastries, and listening to the stories that they eagerly wanted to share. Continue reading “Step into the Gap – Empowering women in Peru”
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.
Bea Findley, one of CAFOD’s gap year volunteers, has written about how water shortages are affecting communities in Peru:
We are about half way through our time in Peru now and I can’t believe it! It’s all happening so fast – I wish I could slow it down! I had a great week last week with partners on the outskirts of Lima and this week, we’re amongst the mountains.
We’ve been spending time with CAFOD partner CEAS, which is a social action commission of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference.
CEAS’ work in Ancash is about fair water distribution and empowering the local community. All the water sustaining this region is from Lake Parón – an incredible natural resource high in the mountains. Streams and rivers flow down the mountains from the lake to all of the communities and families. Lake Parón sits beneath glaciers. As they melt and the rain falls, the lake fills and sends water to the communities. Continue reading “Step into the Gap Peru – Water is a precious commodity”
Alice and Michelle are currently in Peru, visiting communities CAFOD works with as part of the Step into the Gap programme. This is their first blog about their stay and some of the people they have spent time with so far.
Luz first came into contact with CAFOD partner Warmi Huasi as a mother when they were running a child nutrition programme. Now she works for Warmi Huasi and continues to support parents and children to live with dignity, know their rights, and be treated fairly.
It was so impromptu. I can’t even remember what we were talking to Luz about before. But then she started to tell us about the time she found out that a school in her area was mistreating its students. Luz wanted to campaign for a better learning environment for the students so she asked others for their help and support. At first, they were worried about the consequences and didn’t want anything to do with it – but with a little bit of encouragement, the campaign began. Continue reading “Step into the Gap Peru – Advocacy at the local level”
Bernadette Goddard took part in the Step into the Gap programme last year. In this blog she describes why the work of partners in Nicaragua inspired her to ask for World Gifts as Christmas presents this year.
As Christmas approaches every year I am asked the question what would I like. It’s a double question for me as my birthday is just five days before Christmas, on 20 December. Each year I receive many gifts, often ones which, if I’m honest, I don’t need or use. In previous years I’ve asked for things which would be useful. Last year I was about to embark on a life changing trip with CAFOD to Nicaragua and people helped with my kit list, buying me useful items to take with me such as torches and plug adapters! This Christmas I have decided to appeal to family and friends on social media to buy World Gifts.
On World AIDS Day, Montserrat Fernández, Programme Officer for Central America, tells us how our partners in Guatemala are supporting women, men and children living with HIV.
The first time I met a person with HIV was in 1990, 25 years ago, in Canada. Since then, through my work with CAFOD in Central America, I have met dozens of girls, boys, women and men living with HIV, all of whom have enriched my understanding of how to live with dignity and with strength. On World AIDS Day, I want to share with you just one of the many stories from these individuals who have inspired me so much.
Gimena and David’s story
Gimena and her husband David are both living with HIV. When their baby boy was born, Gimena was breastfeeding him, unaware of the risks of transmitting the virus through her milk. They were not sure at that stage whether or not he was HIV positive because all newborns have antibodies from their mother, which means an HIV test shows positive, even if the baby is not infected himself.
Gimena said: “The doctor told me: ‘Don’t breastfeed him any more.’ I started praying, asking God to save my baby.
“A year and a half later I said to God: ‘It’s going to be your will, not my desire.’ They tested my son, and after a time they told me: ‘Congratulations Mrs Gimena! Thank God! Although you breastfed him for four months, his HIV test result is negative.’ The doctors shouted and hugged each other, saying: ‘The child is well!’ I wept for pure joy.” Continue reading “World AIDS Day 2015”
Montserrat Fernández, Programme Officer for Central America, has been working against gender-based violence for 22 years. On the first day of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign she shares her thoughts on why violence against women and girls is such an important issue, and what motivated her to act.
My experience of gender-based violence
I belong to the 35 per cent of women worldwide who have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in our lives. At 20 years old, I was living in Barcelona and studying teaching. One day, while travelling to teach at a primary school, I was raped.
I went to the police station to denounce the attack but there were no police women at that time, in the 80s, in Barcelona. The policeman who took my testimony got red face as I described what had happened. My parents then accompanied me to another police station to look through photos of all rapists in Barcelona, to see if I could recognise my aggressor. He was not in the police photo albums, but my neighbour, the son of one of my parents’ friends, was.
I decided to denounce the attack because I didn’t want the young girls who were going to the primary school to have the kind of bad experience I was facing. Today, in Nicaragua where I work, I know that girls going to school in rural areas are facing similar experiences on the way to school or even inside their schools. Because of this, some girls decide to drop out of school.
This November CAFOD’s legacy information officer, Heather, will be leaving CAFOD after 26 years. Here Heather reflects on some of the milestones and changes she’s witnessed during that time.
26 years is a long time to spend in one place but, as I approach my retirement, I feel fortunate to have worked for an organisation that makes a difference.
The seeds of my interest in overseas development were sown by the teachers, priests and relatives who encouraged me to care about people in poverty.
Readers of my generation will remember the images of starving children in Biafra during the Nigerian civil war (1967-70). As a teenager I didn’t understand the complex and dangerous circumstances in which agencies like CAFOD were working on the ground; but I knew I wanted to help.
Years later, the call to action for my daughter’s generation was Michael Buerk’s report of the 1984 Ethiopia famine. Sr Colette, a remarkable nun who was running a feeding programme for malnourished children, told our parish how important the support she received from CAFOD was.
In 1989 I joined CAFOD as parish promotion secretary; supporting the Friday self-denial groups, volunteers, regional organisers and parishes. There were around 50 staff in our Brixton office then and we’d just opened our first international office in Albania.
CAFOD supporter John van den Bosch visited our projects in Nicaragua to see how gifts in wills, like the one left by his mother, are having a huge impact.
My mother, Marjorie, was a dedicated CAFOD supporter. When she died, I wasn’t surprised to learn that, as well as providing for her friends and family, she’d also remembered CAFOD in her will. My niece Kate and I were given the opportunity to visit CAFOD projects in Nicaragua to see how legacies like my mother’s are put to use.
As one of my mother’s executors, and a CAFOD supporter myself, I was intrigued. I suppose you could call me a “curious sceptic”. But the work I saw in Nicaragua and the remarkable people I met there gave me a richer understanding and appreciation of what CAFOD does.