Step into the Gap Nicaragua – Bernadette: The joy of living is to serve

Bernadette is one of CAFOD‘s Step into the Gap volunteers. She’s currently working as a chaplain at St. Mary’s Catholic Academy in Blackpool and is visiting CAFOD partners in Nicaragua.

Hola from Nicaragua. There is so much I want to share with you already and I think the easiest way is to give you an insight into the trip so far to give people a whole view of the experience. So here goes, when I said in my pre blog about looking forward to the opportunity to see the work that CAFOD is involved in I never realised how much I would experience so quickly.

Find out about Step into the Gap

Practising for CYMFED Flame 2
Practising for CYMFED Flame 2

On our first full day in Managua, the capital city, we headed out as a group to meet the Central America CAFOD team based here in Managua. This was an opportunity to find out about what the team here focuses on, not only in Nicaragua but throughout Central America. We spent time looking at various aspects such as the work around gender and HIV, livelihoods, human rights and weather.

Continue reading “Step into the Gap Nicaragua – Bernadette: The joy of living is to serve”

Cutting out chocolate for Lent: this year I have a plan

Lent fundraising 50p chocolate
Jo is cutting out chocolate and donating the money she saves to CAFOD.

Jo De Paula works in CAFOD’s schools fundraising team. Her work involves encouraging children to take part in Lent Fast Day, but here she tells us how she’s planning on personally making a difference this Lent. Lent is coming soon! Every year I plan to do many things for Lent that will bring me closer to God and challenge myself to be a better person. This year I have chosen to give up chocolate. So right now I have the overwhelming urge to eat as much sugar as I can before I give it up for 40 days. But so often after I share my #ashtag Ash Wednesday Selfie with the world, my good intentions never materialise. This year will be different. This year I have a plan:

Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Kieron sees the power of solar

Kieron is one of CAFOD’s Step into the Gap volunteers. He’s currently working as a chaplain at St. Mary’s Catholic Academy in Blackpool and is visiting CAFOD partners in Zimbabwe.

Kieron meeting communities in Zimbabwe
Kieron meeting communities in Zimbabwe

As the days continue to fly by in Zimbabwe and time is quickly slipping away, it’s time to share from my perspective what I have experienced so far. After spending nearly two weeks here in the landlocked country of Zimbabwe, there have been many moving encounters meeting with partners of CAFOD and communities.

Call on the UK government to support renewable energy and bring power to the poorest people

After spending a few days in the capital Harare, getting to know our surroundings and being greeted by the CAFOD staff, we began our journey to the north west of Zimbabwe, to an area named Binga. After a long journey, in the heat of a cloudless sky, we arrived safe and sound.

Continue reading “Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Kieron sees the power of solar”

Lent: a time for compassion

By Rachel McCarthy, Theology Programme Communications Coordinator

Kyin Nu, Myanmar - cyclones and extreme weather

The season of Lent is fast upon us. It is time to prepare for the traditional acts of giving, praying and fasting, as we journey with Jesus through 40 days and nights.

Lent is a season of reflection and renewal. A time of growing in faith and looking deeper at our lives to be re-centred on God and our neighbour. A time to deepen our prayer life and to grow in faith. A time of giving and sharing with our global family.

Use our Lenten calendar to guide you through the daily scriptures of Lent.

Fasting during Lent

And then there is fasting. We might give something up such as chocolate, and we make a special effort on Fridays to abstain from the goods we usually take for granted. A few times I have fasted for 24 hours during Lent. Last year for example, I fasted in solidarity with people in the UK who are living on the breadline and are forced every week to go to food banks to feed their families.

I have to admit, for me, fasting is never easy. Although food poverty is an issue close to my heart, I found it very difficult to stay focused during these 24 hours. I found myself being more tired and irritable with others around me. I was tempted to winge, to draw attention to myself, in the hope that others would feel sorry for me.

But this is precisely the temptation which we must avoid. In the long hours of our fasting, we must wrestle with our demons, and stay focused on God. In a very real sense, fasting is the act of emptying ourselves, so that we can turn away from all that separates us from loving God. It’s a time of trial, when we rekindle patience and hope for the resurrection. Continue reading “Lent: a time for compassion”

Step into the Gap Nicaragua – ASOMUPRO: How can one person make a difference in the world?

Chris is one of CAFOD’s Step into the Gap volunteers working for the Youth Ministry Team in the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle. He’s currently in Nicaragua to see CAFOD’s work and has sent back this blog:

“How can one person make a difference in the world?” It is a hard question to answer.

At the start of our trip Vicky, one of our kind accompaniers, explained to us how ASOMUPRO – the association of women producers who we spent the week with – starts making a difference with the women they work with. They do this by giving women the opportunity to start believing in themselves. ASOMUPRO says that in the Nicaraguan machista society, once women start saying “I can” that is half the battle won. And it is surprising how much the phrase “I can” came up throughout our week with ASOMUPRO.

Here is one of the stories of those people affected by ASOMUPRO, this will hopefully give you an insight into their work, on a personal level.

Continue reading “Step into the Gap Nicaragua – ASOMUPRO: How can one person make a difference in the world?”

CAFOD staff are cutting it out for Lent 2015

CAFOD staff Lent 2015
Mariacristina with her CAFOD colleagues who are cutting something out or doubling something in their lives this Lent.

Maricristina Lubrano from our digital team tells us about her colleagues who are giving something up for Lent.

It is at times like Lent, when we stop to reflect on a number of things and get closer to God, that we often realise how blessed we are. Right now I feel blessed to be working with a group of committed and passionate people. With only two weeks to go until Ash Wednesday I know lots of people will be trying to decide what to cut out in order to create a change in their own lives or in the wider world.

Take a look at our Cut it Out resources for Lent fundraising

I’ve been talking to my colleagues about their preparations for Lent and have been impressed by how dedicated they are to make a difference to the lives of those who suffer and taking care of the gifts we have been given by God. Many people are focussing on using Lent to help people living in poverty to cope with the destruction that extreme weather and climate change can bring. Lots of people at CAFOD are making Lenten promises, and we all have our own little challenging and exciting cut it out activities to try and reduce our impact on the environment. Continue reading “CAFOD staff are cutting it out for Lent 2015”

Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Lizzie & Leila

Lizzie is working as a chaplain at Newman University and Leila is a volunteer at the Good Shepherd in Nelson, respectively. They are both visiting Zimbabwe as part of CAFOD‘s Step into the Gap programme.

We’ve spent the past week in the west of Zimbabwe, in a place called Binga. And what a week it’s been. We’ve visited so many great projects and met so many inspirational communities, it’s hard to know where to begin. So here are just a couple of highlights from our week.

18-30? Learn about CAFOD’s gap year with a difference

Lizzie says:

For me, Binga has been an extremely memorable and moving experience. In Siamtelele village, Moyo Mthatshelwa, a 49-year-old farmer, warmly welcomed us with a traditional lunch of sadza, goat’s intestines, spinach, groundnut maize, sour milk and crumbled bread, all produced off their farm. I was touched by the generosity of his family. Moyo explained that “CAFOD’s scheme is very nice to us farmers. You’ve assisted us well. We thank you very much. It will improve ourselves and will pay for school for my thirteen children and help develop our future”.

Moyo and other farmers have been helped by CAFOD
Moyo and other farmers have been helped by CAFOD

Continue reading “Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Lizzie & Leila”

Step into the Gap Nicaragua – Country girl at heart

Steph is spending a year as a Step into the Gap volunteer for CAFOD and is working at Good Shepherd parish in Nelson, Lancashire. Here is an update on her visit to Nicaragua.

We have just come back from an amazing few days staying in rural Nicaragua up by the Honduras border. We stayed with Elizabeth on her family farm called ‘Gracias a Dios’ (Thanks to God). Elizabeth works for ASOMUPRO, one of CAFOD’s partners, so she was our guide for the week. She lives with her parents; Dona Ada and Don Angel, her two younger sisters, her cousin and her brother, his wife and their son Arron on a gorgeous farm complete with pigs, cows, horses, a donkey, hens and dogs!

The Step into the Gap Nicaragua group
The Step into the Gap Nicaragua group

Elizabeth is a technical support worker, someone who visits the surrounding communities where ASOMUPRO works. She is the local communication link with the main office in Managua as well as the more local office in Esteli (still three hours’ drive away). She checks up to see how they’re getting on, to provide support and communicate any training they might want to go to. Locally she works with the Natoso bee keeping women, the kitchen garden women in San Fernando and Dona Helen in Jicaro as well as many other groups.

Find out more about CAFOD’s work in Nicaragua

All the girls, (six of us as we had Bryanna, an intern at ASOMUPRO travelling with us also) shared one room, while Chris and Marvin (our driver for the week) had their own. Mosquito nets were vital here so imagine six individual nets up in one room, sleep walking was not an option for Vicky!

Continue reading “Step into the Gap Nicaragua – Country girl at heart”

Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Mary meets Mpofu

Mary is one of CAFOD’s gap year volunteers, and has been working with the Youth Ministry Team in the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle. Here, she shares her story so far from her Zimbabwe visit:

Mary with Mpofu, a farmer in Zimbabwe
Mary with Mpofu, a farmer in Zimbabwe

Here in Zimbabwe we are learning more and more every day. The sun is always shining and hot and the people are so welcoming and friendly. This week we are staying in the rural area of Binga to visit the projects of CAFOD partner – Caritas Hwange.

Learn more about CAFOD’s work in Zimbabwe

Our visit yesterday was to a farm in Zuka – a two-and-a-half hour drive away from Binga over incredibly rocky roads, full of potholes as well as herds of goats and cows and the occasional baboon! It was fascinating to drive past traditional thatched roof huts of the rural villages, and see the women, men and children going to work and school.

Continue reading “Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Mary meets Mpofu”

Ebola Crisis: On leaving Sierra Leone

Caritas_Sierra Leone_Tommy Trenchard_Oct (9)
CAFOD’s work includes promoting good hygiene and training communities in how to stop the spread of the disease.

Catherine Mahony, CAFOD’s  Humanitarian Coordinator for West Africa, has been working on Ebola in Sierra Leone for the last three months. She reflects on coming home.

Donate to CAFOD’s Ebola crisis appeal

This week I’ll be taking the boat to the airport to leave Sierra Leone, three months to the day since I arrived.

I remember well the apprehension I felt when I first came in on that boat, mainly at the enormity of the task and the scale of the crisis.

In October last year we were preparing ourselves for the possibility that 1.4 million people would be infected with Ebola by the end of the year if we didn’t massively step up our efforts.

As of the 25 January, the World Health Organisation estimates that the cumulative confirmed, probable and suspected cases across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea stands at 21,724 and the graphs finally seem to be flattening out, showing fewer cases per day. It’s still too many lives lost, but thankfully not our worst case scenario.

At last, districts in Sierra Leone are crossing the ‘Ebola free’ threshold, having passed 42 days without a new case. I feel a sense of relief that we were able to prevent the worst and our optimism albeit small is allowed to grow a little every day.

So many people have made an extraordinary effort to get us to this point: the local health workers who selflessly stepped up to care for the sick and dying, 221 of whom here in Sierra Leone lost their lives to Ebola; the brave men and women who volunteered to join burial teams and dig graves, every day facing the strain of grieving families; and the people across England and Wales who’ve generously donated to CAFOD. Continue reading “Ebola Crisis: On leaving Sierra Leone”