Kayode Akintola is CAFOD’s country representative in Sierra Leone and Liberia. He tells us how volunteers fought on the front line in the Ebola crisis and how these countries are preparing for Covid-19.
Oge Chukwudozie is a Humanitarian Capacity Strengthening Officer for CAFOD in Nigeria. Oge explains how community volunteers play such a vital role in CAFOD’s work to support remote communities.
As the most populous country on the continent, Nigeria is often referred to as the “Giant of Africa”. It is also large geographically, and transport links are poor in the more rural areas. It takes six hours for CAFOD staff to travel by road from Abuja to Omalla in Kogi state, and this is one of the closest areas where we work.
Community volunteers, supported by CAFOD and its partners, play an important role in supporting remote communities across Nigeria. This International Volunteers Day, on December 5th, I want to celebrate the important role that volunteers play in CAFOD’s work across the world, by sharing the stories of some of the wonderful volunteers in Nigeria.
Today is World Toilet Day. Abigail McMillan, in CAFOD’s South West and Wales team reflects on how the humble toilet is an often overlooked life-saver.
Toilets are generally a private subject; my mum would say not to be discussed at the dinner table. But professionally, World Toilet Day makes perfect sense to me. The world can be changed by toilets, and the Church takes toilets very seriously.
Following the tremendous response of Catholic parishioners in England and Wales to CAFOD’s Family Fast Day Appeal during Lent 2016, the UK Government doubled the nearly £5m that was donated by the general public. With this, we were able to instigate a water, sanitation and hygiene programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Dadirai Chikwengo is CAFOD’s Governance Advisor supporting work across Africa, Asia and Latin America. She is currently in Zimbabwe ahead of the first elections since former President, Robert Mugabe – who had been leading the country for over 30 years – stepped down.
In the last five days, I have been taken back to my childhood days. The days when I was a little girl in Gweru. The euphoria and the excitement in the country have taken me back decades to 1980 when Mugabe came into power. It is winter in Zimbabwe. Not that our winters are grey and wet as some place in the North where I now live. Here most of the vegetation looks brown like fields of wheat ready for harvest. But this winter, the colours on the brown barks of the trees have been unusual. From green, yellow, red, blue, you mention it!
In case you think I am out of my mind – surely who has seen a blue tree? I am not. These are all the colours of posters tied up or pasted on the trees. The colours of posters that are lining the streets or on walls whenever you go. Posters of political parties, the Church or the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission about this election. I meet people in the streets who are fearlessly open about their candidate of choice. Clad in the colours of their party every time they see someone in the same colours they acknowledge them and loudly say out the slogan ED Pfee (ED enters) or Chamisa chete chete (Chamisa the only one).
Thank you to everyone who has donated to the Lent Appeal. Your gifts will change lives around the world. And if you donated between 13 February and 12 May, the UK Government will double your donation, giving twice the number of children the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong. Match funding for the appeal has now ended but you can still donate
Runa Begum is a volunteer in CAFOD’s digital team. She tells us why she was so impressed by the opportunity to have your donation doubled this lent, and by CAFOD supporters who continue to donate generously.
For the last few years I have been thinking more about donating with maximum impact – giving so my money goes further to needy causes. I often research the projects charities fund to see how far my pound can go. I think a lot of other people are feeling similar – we want our charitable donations to go as far as possible and to do as much good as possible.
Money raised for CAFOD’s Family Fast Day appeal this Lent will definitely do as much good as possible. Donations will be match funded by the UK Government which means your donation will be doubled, at no extra cost to you. More importantly, it means your gift will have double the impact in communities in Zimbabwe, Eritrea and around the world.
This Lent you may have heard about Tawanda from Zimbabwe and how hungry he was as a child. You may have heard how CAFOD helped Marian to plant a vegetable garden and how Tawanda’s little brother Svondo grew up with plenty of good food. But what happened to Tawanda?
Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Tawanda. I’m 21 years old and I live in Gokwe North District with my mum, dad, two brothers and little sister.
What was your childhood like?
When I was younger, I remember being so desperate, we’d eat anything. We ate roasted groundnuts with sadza. It’s not something I’d recommend. It’s like eating salt.
What are you doing now?
I have my own vegetable plot at the community vegetable garden. I farm the plot so I can sell vegetables to buy things like clothes and shoes. I enjoy working on the plot – it’s my only way of earning money.
In March 2017, a drought in east Africa, combined with terrible violence between the government and rebels, had created a famine in South Sudan. One of CAFOD’s staff based in the country, Emergency Programme Manager Michael O’Riordan, visited people in March to give out food. At that time he reflected on the emotion and power of the experience.
A haunting refrain
When I was leaving Yirol in central South Sudan following a food distribution, an elderly gentleman in his late 60s kept asking why he wasn’t on the list to receive food. He couldn’t work and therefore couldn’t earn a living. Clearly disabled and using a walking stick, he kept pleading “why am I not deserving?”.
This haunting refrain has echoed in my ears ever since. It is not that he is not deserving; we just don’t have enough for everyone.
Having returned to this community after just a few months since the last food distribution, we found a bad situation far worse than we could have imagined. Although we are responding as best we can, it is beyond our ability to meet all needs.
The Chair of CAFOD’s Trustees, Bishop John Arnold, is visiting Niger to see our projects, including our Hands On Doutchi project. Bishop John is also keen to build stronger links with the local Catholic Church.
Hands On is a special series of CAFOD projects that allows you to support a specific community with a project. Our latest project in Bolivia is still open for new supporters. Find out more about Hands On in Bolivia
Bishop John’s first blog describes his initial impressions; he has been travelling out to see projects over the last two days…
Takura Gwatinyanya works for CAFOD partner Caritas Harare in Zimbabwe. He recently met CAFOD supporters in England and Wales to talk about how Caritas Harare is using renewable energy to help to tackle the effects of climate change in the southern African country.
Pope Francis warns in Laudato Si’ that our interference with nature is particularly affecting areas in which the poorest people live.
This is all too evident for the communities that Takura and Caritas Harare serve in Zimbabwe. As we have caused the climate to warm, drought has dried up people’s water supplies, destroyed their crops and livelihoods, and increased the spread of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and diarrhoea.
Takura recently visited parishes around England and Wales to talk about how the support of Catholics in this country is enabling people in Zimbabwe to overcome the challenges thrown at them by our exploitation of nature.