CAFOD’s Film & Photography Officer, Thom Flint reflects on the trip to Marsabit County in Kenya. He met some of the most hard-to-reach communities, but saw the potential that our global Church network has to reach out.
We jump into the back of the Caritas Marsabit 4×4 and hit
the road, film equipment safely stored behind us. And under us. And on top of
us. We’re in north-east Kenya, and we’re on our way to meet the communities
that we’ve been giving food aid to since the drought hit in 2016.
The going is initially easy. A little too easy. We zoom up a
very smooth, newly-tarmacked main road with only the occasional camel for
But the communities we’re visiting don’t happen to live on a main road.
In the wake of Black Friday madness gripping the UK for the last week, I reflect back to years gone by, with footage of people queuing for hours, or fighting to get the last bargain. How those people feeling now? I wonder if they are planning to replace last year’s new purchase with this year’s newer model, or whether they feel genuinely fulfilled by their choices.
Seeing these scenes has made me question my own purchases this Christmas. When I go out seeking to buy something for my family or friends, I try to question whether I am buying them a gift that they need. Will what I am giving them enrich their lives, or am I giving just for the sake of giving?
I have been working for CAFOD for almost two years now. On a daily basis, I witness dedication, passion and acts of solidarity from our volunteers around England and Wales. I am also privileged to hear the stories of colleagues and partners who work overseas on how our prayers and donations help local communities and transform lives for the better.
Seeing and hearing these stories inspires me, making me feel that living simply could be a better way to live. I know that if I make small changes in my life, it could enable someone else to live a fuller life.
At Liz Dene’s parish, Our Lady and Saints of Guernsey, their actions throughout Advent last year did just that.
After seeing the impact a single goat had had on a community during a trip to Uganda, Liz was inspired to help. She knew that CAFOD’s World Gifts, a range of ethical virtual gifts which transform lives overseas, could help. She decided to launch a project within her parish to fundraise.
The gift Liz chose was the Goat that Gives. It costs just £28 but provides a family with milk to drink or sell and fertiliser to help grow their crops.
The group held a coffee morning in their parish after Mass, expecting to fund around 30 goats. But the project took off, and in the end Our Lady and Saints of Guernsey bought over 100 goats, raising more than £3,000 and changing the lives of so many. They even symbolised each goat they bought by sticking a plastic figurine of a goat to a sandwich board, which was painted green. Liz said: “It worked because people were happy to give £28. And if they weren’t, we joked with them: ‘You can buy the hind quarters and someone else will buy the front!’”
More than just goats
This is just one example of CAFOD supporters changing lives through World Gifts. Schoolchildren from around England and Wales have fundraised to buy virtual villages, picking the things they think the village would most need: water, medical outreach teams and animals to name a few. Individuals have passed on the Gift of Play to some of the world’s poorest children.
World Gifts are a thoughtful and ethical present, and the benefits don’t end once you’ve unwrapped it. After you buy a World Gift, you will receive a beautiful card which explains how the gift will make a lasting difference.
I’ve already kickstarted my Christmas shopping with the chance for my sister to help a farmer grow enough food to feed a llama all year round with the Help a llama farmer gift. Llamas are three gifts in one – providing farming families with wool for clothing, manure for boosting crops and an important safety net in times of need! I know there will be smiles on Christmas day.
Either way, it’s a happy alternative to the same old socks, toiletries and chocolates that we are so used to giving and receiving during the festive period.
If we all challenged ourselves to live a little more simply and think a little more about the gifts we buy this Christmas, we could make a big difference. We can all take inspiration from Oscar Romero, who said: “Aspire not to have more, but to be more.”
With just over a month until Christmas, Sally Kitchener in our communications team answers some of your questions about World Gifts – CAFOD’s virtual charity gifts.
With many of my friends and family searching for practical, ethical and meaningful presents this Christmas, I’ve found myself talking a lot about CAFOD’s World Gifts. And it turns out that Christmas charity gifts, especially virtual goat gifts, bring up some rather tricky questions.
Presenter and reporter Julie Etchingham travelled to Lebanon to see the work of CAFOD partner Caritas Lebanon.
In a side road in a small town in the Bekaa Valley Yazan and Majed are hard at work. They are brothers aged 10 and 11. Their day started in darkness, getting up at 4am they were a bit scared to be going out before dawn, to get to their jobs in a local bakery.
The tiny bakery turns out flatbreads for local restaurants. The boys work alongside two grown men. The adults receive $40 (£30) a day. The boys get $3 (£2.30) a day between them. But these meagre earnings are vital for their family to survive after fleeing the war in Syria.
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.