Richard Sloman is CAFOD’s Middle East Programme Officer. Here he reflects on his time in Lebanon where almost 40 per cent of the population are Syrian and Palestinian refugees. Richard visited one of Lebanon’s twelve Palestinian refugee camps – home to 450,000 people, one in ten of the country’s population.
Bourj el Barajneh in Beirut, Lebanon is one of the world’s oldest refugee camps. Established in 1948, it’s home to more than 31,000 people. These women, men and children live in just one square kilometre of land. That’s roughly 31 people for every square metre of earth.
Francis Atul Sarker is the executive director of Caritas Bangladesh, our local partner who is working around the clock to get emergency aid to the mainly Rohingya people, fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar. He gives this eyewitness account of life for the refugees in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.
When I think of the refugees that I visited in southern Bangladesh last week, I keep seeing a young girl with trauma written across her face. I asked where her parents were. She told me she was an orphan, being looked after by a neighbour from their village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. It was heart-breaking.
CAFOD legacy officer Hannah Caldwell shares the inspiring story of Lisl Steiner, who fled the Nazis, became a teacher and continues to change children’s lives by the gift she left to CAFOD in her will.
There are so many inspirational people at the heart of CAFOD’s work, each with their own story. I’m lucky that in my job every now and then I get to hear a little more of some of these stories.
One that I often think of is that of Lisl Steiner, who supported CAFOD for many years and remembered us with a gift in her will.
Lisl was born into a Jewish family in Vienna, 1923. At 15, as the world was on the brink of war and Jews were suffering cruelty and persecution at the hands of the Nazi regime, she made a lonely journey to England.
Each year since 2009, World Humanitarian Day has been held on 19 August to mobilise support for people affected by crises around the world and to pay tribute to all those who risk their lives in humanitarian service. Yadviga Clark, CAFOD’s Emergency Programme Officer for the Syria Crisis response, shares her experiences of visiting Syrian refugees that have settled in Lebanon.
Conflict so often affects innocent people – many flee for their lives, families are torn apart and displaced from their homes, children are traumatised and taken out of school, and aid workers risk their lives to care for people caught up in the violence.
Olwen Maynard is a member of the Asia and Middle East team. She tells us how bringing young people together in Lebanon is helping to build trust among local people and Syrian refugees.
There’s been a lot of heart-searching in this country about taking in Syrian refugees, and how many would be our ‘fair share’. Something we tend to forget is that most displaced Syrians are still in the Middle East region. Lebanon, a small country with a population of about four million (half that of Greater London), has taken in over a million. Just stop and think about that for a minute.
Charlie is a youth worker at the Youth Ministry Trust (YMT) in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. He works with young people to inspire and encourage them in their faith. This year he has volunteered as the ‘CAFOD ambassador’ at YMT, championing global justice work on the team.
My year as a volunteer
My year at YMT has been absolutely incredible, heightened by joining forces with CAFOD to promote social justice and CAFOD’s key projects and campaigns.
My year here at YMT as CAFOD ambassador has been one of great growth and progress, having the opportunity to grow in my skills, confidence, and joy for the Gospel! My work with CAFOD has also very much challenged me, in researching and learning about major social and political issues that impact the world around us, and us personally.
Georgia is ayouth leader at The Briars Catholic youth retreat centre.This year she will work with hundreds of young people, enabling them to explore their faith. She has just started a year volunteering with CAFOD as a youth ambassador, championing global justice work in her centre. Here she reflects on her year ahead.
Last week I was fortunate enough to be a part of CAFOD’s ambassador first training programme, in which myself and eight other youth ministers joined forces to work together on how we could further raise awareness on the current refugee crisis.
Today is Nelson Mandela Day. In 2005 at the ‘Make Poverty History’ march, Nelson Mandela called young people to be part of a ‘great generation’ to work to eliminate world poverty. Francis Hillen reflects on what being part of the ‘great generation’ means to him.
Francis is a youth worker at the Kenelm Youth Trustin Birmingham Archdiocese where he supports young people on their faith journey through retreats and outreach work. He’s the CAFOD ambassador on the team there, championing the inclusion of global justice in the programmes.
“Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” Nelson Mandela
When I think of this quote I think of the power we all have to make a difference or a change. Nelson Mandela is a great example of a man who during his lifetime made a remarkable positive change.
During Mandela’s lifetime we see how the people of Britain were able come together and campaign against the injustice of apartheid and Mandela’s imprisonment throughout the 80s. This most definitely will have gone some way towards his freedom and subsequent election as President of South Africa. For example the song ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ was written by a group of lads from Coventry, it later became an anthem used by the movement.
In today’s world there are many people who lack freedom and through my work with Kenelm Youth Trust as a gap year volunteer, and as a CAFOD Ambassador, I’ve seen the yearning of young people to make a difference. Children I’ve worked with have written truly sincere messages of hope for refugees and teenagers have offered words of solidarity.
Our final Friday blog on Lenten works of mercy is from schools volunteer Penny Morse.
During Lent I have been visiting primary schools in the Clifton diocese, meeting children and sharing stories from Uganda in assemblies and workshops. In this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis e invites us to be living signs of Jesus’ love. This Lent I’ve really seen these living signs of love and mercy lived out through children’s actions.
Sarah Burrows from CAFOD’s Youth team describes how young people have been writing messages of love and hope for refugees .
CAFOD ambassadors from retreat and outreach teams have spent the past few months reflecting on the refugee crisis, responding by raising awareness and gathering messages of hope and love for refugees from the young people they work with. At the beginning of March the group came down to London to bring their messages to Parliament, and speak to their MPs about the refugee crisis. The day before, we had the chance to gather together, halfway through Lent, to reflect on the fact that refugees are such a huge part of the Year of Mercy, they are “brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.” (Pope Francis, 2014)