On International Day of the Disappeared, CAFOD’s Clare Dixon shares the story of people who worked at the height of the conflict in El Salvador to make sure people killed by death squads did not just disappear without a trace. Sadly, some of the details of this story are distressing.
The first time I visited El Salvador in 1981 the country was plunged in a brutal civil war. Thousands of ordinary men and women were being targeted by the army and death squads, just for demanding their basic human rights, a decent wage, and freedom of speech. Nobody ventured out after dark for fear of being arrested or just snatched off the streets and I felt an overwhelming sense of fear and dread.
Archbishop Romero, the “voice of the voiceless” who had espoused and defended the cause of the poor and oppressed, had been shot dead as he said Mass in 1980. A year later I was visiting El Salvador to meet with members of his Archdiocese who, with the support of CAFOD, had set up a human rights office. Its task was to provide legal aid to help and comfort the countless victims of violence who had nowhere else to turn when their loved ones had “disappeared” after being captured by the death squads.
Anne works in our fundraising team. Every year she looks forward to combining her two passions of fundraising and baking at the Great CAFOD Bake Off.
When I was growing up I knew that my parish’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes was soon approaching. Not because of any announcements at my church, but due to the activity in my family kitchen.
My busy mum did not have the time to volunteer on these pilgrimages, which travelled overland from Edinburgh to Lourdes. She did, however, offer her wonderful talent to it, through baking. In the days leading up to the pilgrimage I would come home from school, or wake up to the smell of baking, which filled our house. The kitchen surfaces were covered in baked treats, including family favourites of tea loafs, empire biscuits and fairy cakes.
Rod travelled to Cambodia with the Step into the Gap programme to meet CAFOD partners and the communities they work with. One year on from his trip, Rod reflects on what it all meant to him.
The way in which Cambodia changed me seems to come into view and then fall out again, oscillating in the busyness of life. When I was speaking to people about my trip to Cambodia almost every day, when it was my life, the changes it had made to me were more obvious. Now, to a certain extent they have become more blurred, because I am not thinking about the trip so much. But they are also clearer because I am able to look back at how it changed me from a distance.
Harry and Meghan have been busy in the past few months planning their wedding – and so has Therese! She’s been enjoying some of the slightly different ways that weddings can be celebrated. If you’re planning your wedding, why not see if you can encompass some of these ideas.
Who doesn’t love a wedding?
Full of love, happiness, cheesy music and people dressed in their best. It’s a fantastic day of bringing families and friends together to have a great celebration.
My boyfriend Joe proposed to me last Valentines day and we were amazed with all the messages of love we received. We have (well, really, I have) been keeping a keen eye on the build up to the latest Royal Wedding. I have particularly been paying attention to some little breaks in tradition, like asking guests to donate to their chosen charities rather than gifts. If I were a guest at Harry and Meghan’s wedding I would be rather relieved by this request, I can’t even begin to imagine what you would buy a Prince and future Princess!
Becca Haile is our Bangladesh Programme Officer. She tells us about the negative impact of chemicals in farming and the importance of moving towards more sustainable solutions.
Soil is, quite simply, the life blood of our Earth. It sustains our food production and provides a habitat for millions of living organisms. It can even help regulate our climate. But I’d never truly understood just how important soil is to the well-being of our planet before I visited Bangladesh and spoke to farmers whose lives had been directly impacted by changes to their soil.
In 2017 I met 38-year-old Jamal Hossain. He is a small-scale farmer, father and husband from Jessore in South West Bangladesh. Jamal described to me how just four years earlier he had to stop farming completely. Years of applying excessive amounts of chemical fertilisers and pesticides to his soil had left him in poor health and unable to continue working on his land. Jamal had also noticed that the quality of his soil had worsened over the years and his produce had suffered.
To make ends meet he took up work as a day labourer. He transported stone and concrete to construction sites. “It was hard work and physically draining. I so wanted to start working on my land again but I was too worried about my health,” Jamal told me.
Hal and Cherrie from London based east-meets-west electronic pop group Ooberfuse have finish their Lent challenges! They told us how they felt being free to enjoy their favourite treats, and what they’ll take away from the experience.
Georgia, a student at De Montfort University in Leicester, has been on a digital detox for Lent, giving up all forms of social media. She told us how she’s got on with her Give It Up Challenge.
At the time of writing this blog I am 33 days into not using Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. I can’t believe I have come this far- the end is near.
This Lenten challenge has definitely been one of the toughest ones that I have decided to take on. I have found that the most difficult part of the challenge so far is feeling disconnected. The dreaded ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) has always been in the back of my mind. I’ve found that I’ve missed Facebook the most- practically anyway. It is hard having to rely on people to relay information you need whether that be for events or notifications from my sports team. I wouldn’t say its my favourite social media app- but the most useful for my everyday life.
The reaction I have had to this challenge has been “are you crazy?”, “what do you do on your phone then?”. I have to admit these were my first thoughts when I began contemplating the idea. I think the most unexpected thing however is that I don’t miss it anywhere near as much as I thought I would. It has just caused minor inconveniences. I definitely haven’t felt like I have been missing out on anything socially like I did before with seeing people’s snapchat and Instagram stories. Because if its not there to see there is no FOMO. This realization has definitely emphasized how people’s online persona is so different from their reality.
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.
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.