Close-up on Climate: Bernie’s reflection on St Mary’s, Blackpool’s outstanding video entry

Gapper Bernie at the climate lobby
Bernie worked at St Mary’s, Blackpool, as part of her year with Step Into the Gap

The Climate Coalition ran the film project, Close-up on Climate, which invited young people between the ages of 5-18 to make films highlighting the issue of climate change. Three films were chosen as being outstanding in each age category. Bernie Goddard, who took part in CAFOD’s Step into the Gap programme last year, writes about her experience of working with the young people at St Mary’s Blackpool to make their film.

Get involved with the Climate Campaign

As a Gapper at St Mary’s, part of my role was to keep an eye out for what projects CAFOD were running which I could encourage students to get involved in. The Climate Coalition film project, Close-up, was an amazing way to get students involved in a current issue which they had heard about from me when I returned from Nicaragua and shared my experiences with them. I had also spent time attending meetings with CAFOD and had heard of the Climate Coalition: the coming together of many organisations to focus on climate change education and campaigning. This, along with seeing the effects of how climate change impacts others in our world, inspired me to get the young people involved in this project.

Continue reading “Close-up on Climate: Bernie’s reflection on St Mary’s, Blackpool’s outstanding video entry”

Why Syrians become refugees: a view from Aleppo

Bishop AudoBishop Antoine Audo, SJ is the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo and the President of Caritas Syria. He writes:

If you want to know why so many Syrians are seeking a new life in Europe, just come to Aleppo. Large parts of our city have been laid to waste. Bombs and rockets fall every day, and we never know when or where they will hit. We do not feel safe in our homes, in our schools, in the streets, in our churches or in our mosques. It is exhausting to live with this fear hour after hour, day after day.

Even without the shelling, life here would be almost unbearable. Throughout the summer, as temperatures have soared, people have been forced to cope without running water or electricity in their homes. Four out of five people don’t have a job, so families are not able to afford food or basic supplies. The middle-classes have become poor, while the poor are now destitute. Many of those who are still here are elderly. Almost no-one is still in Aleppo by choice: most of those who remain do not have enough money to leave.

I have been the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo for 25 years, and it fills me with sadness to see what has happened to my city. As President of Caritas Syria, I have chosen to stay so I can lead distributions of food and emergency supplies, with support from Catholics in England and Wales and their aid agency CAFOD. But our work is becoming harder, because more and more of our staff are leaving the country. I do not blame them, but their departure makes the task of helping those in need even more difficult.

Donate to our refugee crisis appeal

In some parts of the country, we have had to suspend our operations. In 2014, my colleagues in the city of Hassakeh provided vulnerable Syrians of every faith with vouchers for food, clothes and school equipment as well as covering the costs of medical treatment. In total, they reached over 20,000 people. But this July, as the city fell to extremists, all our staff had to flee at short notice. One of my colleagues had given birth only three days beforehand. Continue reading “Why Syrians become refugees: a view from Aleppo”

“Treated like humans”: CAFOD supports refugees in Serbia

Caritas-Serbia---AbdalkarimCAFOD is working with its partner Caritas Serbia to support thousands of refugees as they attempt to travel north. Stefan Teplan from Caritas describes what it was like to meet just one of them.

“I walked so many roads,” says Abdalkarim. “I crossed so many rivers. I went over so many hills and valleys. I lost my home, my belongings, literally everything.” Abdalkarim Zahra is only 26, yet he says he is “totally finished”.

It’s been many weeks since he fled his home in Syria. His journey has taken him to Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia. People smugglers have taken all his money. He has been pushed into an overcrowded boat to reach Greece. He has worn the same clothes for weeks. He has suffered hunger and thirst. He has been kicked by border police. “Can I still be called a human?” he asked.

Donate to our Refugee Crisis appeal

I meet Abdalkarim Zahra in a refugee aid camp in Kanjiža, a Serbian town 3.5 kilometers away from the Hungarian border. About 2,000 to 3,000 refugees come here every day on their way to Hungary. They then head mostly to Germany.

With support from CAFOD, Caritas Serbia is providing emergency relief there, in two other refugee aid camps in the south of the country in Preshovo on the Macedonian border and in the capital Belgrade. Just like tens of thousands before him (and most probably hundreds of thousands after him), Abdalkarim Zahra has stayed in them all.

In these camps, Caritas Serbia distributes drinking water and juice to the refugees, provides medical help and legal support. In Kanjiža, Caritas is even providing a temporary facility for refugees and migrants that has bathrooms, showers and beds.

“In these aid camps for the first time after so many exhausting weeks, I felt I was treated as a human,” said Abdalkarim. Continue reading ““Treated like humans”: CAFOD supports refugees in Serbia”

‘We are fighting together to save the planet’

Sunday, 9 August is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Our partner Davi Kopenawa Yanomami has dedicated his life to working to ensure that the rights, culture and land of Yanomami and Ye’kuana indigenous people are respected. In 2004, he founded our partner organisation Hutukara Yanomami Association, HAY. In September last year, Davi left his home in the Amazon to visit us here in the UK. He walked with CAFOD pilgrims in Hexham and Newcastle Diocese and met school children in Jarrow. He joined the march in London that launched our One Climate One World Campaign.

This is what Davi has to say about how we can work with his people to build a better future for us all.

Davi marching with CAFOD supporters at the Climate Coalition march in September
Davi marching with CAFOD supporters at the Climate Coalition march in September

“Hutukara means the World; the World where we live: you and us. Hutukara wants to protect, to preserve the Earth. We want to take care of the streams. Water is a priority. Everything that exists in the planet: the land, water, mountains, trees, the clean air, and we the indigenous people and you, we all live in this World. Hutukara’s role is to ensure that the land stays alive for our future and generations to come. Hutukara defends the people, the land, the forest, the rivers, the animals, clean air, health and education. We, the Yanomami people, are the guardians of the forest of our country.

Reflect on care for our common home with our Laudato Si’ study guide

Here [in the UK], people have understood. They are worried about the lungs of the planet. So they did something. The indigenous people did something, and the people from here did something. We are fighting together to save the planet. This is very good. It is the first time I have seen a demonstration for our planet. I really liked it. Continue reading “‘We are fighting together to save the planet’”

Laudato Si’: a personal reflection

Kathy McVay is a CAFOD supporter from Sacred Heart parish, Bristol. Kathy reflects on her experience of reading Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’.

A song of praise

Laudato Si’ is a paean to God’s creation: humankind, other forms of life on earth, the earth itself, our whole planet. And it is a plea to all people to stop destroying it.

Like the majority of scientists (Pope Francis has a background in chemistry), the Holy Father fears that we are destroying our planet, chiefly by creating climate change. He believes that it is a very real threat to poorer countries who are trying to develop, and also to our children and grandchildren.

This interconnectedness between humankind and the elements is a theme that runs throughout the encyclical.

Pray for our earth

The climate is a common good 

Chapter one is partly a factual account of what is happening to the earth; pollution and climate change, waste and the throwaway culture, the issue of water, the loss of biodiversity. He links these issues with a decline in the quality of human life, the breakdown of society, and global inequality. Continue reading “Laudato Si’: a personal reflection”

Win a professional energy audit for your parish!

Wayne Ward is Managing Director at CAFOD corporate partner B:SSEC. Here he reflects on their  partnership with CAFOD and an exciting new competition they have launched for parishes

B:SSEC staff on a hike to raise funds for green energy projects in Kenya
B:SSEC staff on a hike to raise funds for green energy projects in Kenya

When forming a new friendship, it’s always important to have things in common. Whether it is a love of cooking, cycling or bad television, it helps to unite you. And it is great when you find someone who appreciates it when you send them a funny cat video or who willingly agrees to go on that five-hour walk with you.

When the building sustainability and environmental consultancy b:ssec was looking to form a partnership with a charity, we followed a similar principle. At b:ssec, we provide expertise in planning, designing and operating low-carbon buildings. Alongside this, we also advise people on ways they can make energy efficiencies in existing buildings. We looked for an organisation that we share similar values with and who we thought would benefit from shared knowledge.

Win a free energy audit for your parish buildings from energy experts B:SSEC

We chose to partner with CAFOD, a development charity, because of our joint love for sustainable energy. This is energy which has been generated from natural sources such as water, wind and the sun. Being ‘sustainable’ means that it doesn’t harm the climate or local environment and that future generations can meet their energy needs. We both recognise the link between access to sustainable energy, protecting the environment and the promotion of human development. Continue reading “Win a professional energy audit for your parish!”

Hands On Kitui: “In Kenya, anything is possible”

Mark Chamberlain is a communications officer with CAFOD. He travelled to Kitui in Kenya to record some of the work being done as part of Hands On, Kitui. Here he reflects on what makes the project so special.

We were walking through the old Musosya Dam in Kitui, Kenya and my first question wasn’t so much a question as a statement of disbelief, “So, in a few months’ time, this area will be full of water?’ Nicholas Oloo, my colleague from Nairobi, looked at me – a glint in his eye and an almost imperceptible smile, “In Kenya,” he said, “anything is possible.”

Okay, I might need to qualify my disbelief.

Will you get Hands On by making a regular donation today?

Continue reading “Hands On Kitui: “In Kenya, anything is possible””

‘Thanks to CAFOD, I’m not missing out on the world.’

Orla, from London, recently spent a week volunteering at the CAFOD Romero House office. Find out why she thinks young people care about climate change, and who inspired her during her time with the CAFOD team.

Orla volunteering in CAFOD's Romero House office
Orla volunteering in CAFOD’s Romero House office

As an internet-savvy teenager, I have the sort of constant access, 24 hours a day, to the world via social media that my parents never even dreamt of. It’s all there, virtually, and for better or worse, at the touch of a button. News is readily available, telling me stories from half way across the world that I share while sitting on my sofa at home.

For my generation, therefore, the world seems like a smaller place than ever before. And that is reinforced by living and going to school in London. I am part of one of the most ethnically diverse communities anywhere on the globe. In my year group of 96 at my Catholic school, I am one of only four whose parents and grandparents were born and brought up in the UK. So I can learn about such a variety of different cultures by just talking to the person sitting next to me in class.

Speaking Up on 17 June

When looking around my class I know of many members of my friendship group who feel too swept up in the shallowness and unfulfilment that comes with social media. One of the integral parts of my Catholic school is to reach out and help others through charity work. Therefore I know of so many of my peers who seized the opportunity to take part in the Speak Up for the Love of… climate lobby on the 17 June.

Read about the lobby

CAFOD supporters of all ages at the Climate Coalition lobby
CAFOD supporters of all ages Speak Up at the Climate Coalition lobby of parliament

I believe that young people in our society often get the reputation of being uncaring delinquents. However, I speak for many my age when I stress that being a teenager in a world where suffering is so present, where the future of the planet we have to grow up in seems to be spiralling out of control, where the effects of climate change are already being seen, really terrifies us and leaves us feeling powerless.

Continue reading “‘Thanks to CAFOD, I’m not missing out on the world.’”

Oscar Romero lives on in the people of El Salvador

Denise is Diocesan Manager in Brentwood. She visited El Salvador in 2004 for the 15th Anniversary of the Martyrs of El Salvador. To mark the beatification of Blessed Oscar Romero, she tells us how his legacy lives on in the people of El Salvador.

Denise from Brentwood
Denise, Diocesan Manager in Brentwood, visited El Salvador and was witnessed how Romero’s legacy lives on

When I first knew I would be visiting El Salvador I read a few books about the country – most recalling the conflict and the work of Romero and the Jesuit priests. I felt I was concentrating on the past and not finding out about the country now. It soon became clear that the conflict and Romero is still so entwined in daily life, that you couldn’t split the past from the present or the future.

Download prayers to celebrate the life of Blessed Oscar Romero

This is an excerpt from my diary, reflecting on a visit to where Romero was assassinated, the chapel of The Hospital of the Divine Providence

“We are welcomed into the small museum housed in the rooms Romero used when staying at the hospital. Shown around by a sister who had ministered to Romero after he was shot, it is sobering to meet people who so nearly lost their lives but for fate and to be part of history. Continue reading “Oscar Romero lives on in the people of El Salvador”

Oscar Romero: An inspiration who spoke out for the poor

Tony Sheen, Regional Manager for CAFOD, visited El Salvador on a Romero Trust Pilgrimage. Here he shares why Archbishop Oscar Romero inspires him every day.

I am delighted that the Church has beatified Oscar Romero. He is an inspirational Christian Martyr of my life time and an authentic voice of our Church having a real concern for the poor.

He was a true witness to Jesus’s teaching for us to speak out for justice in the beatitudes, when he said in Matthew 5:6. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…and when people speak all types of criticisms of you on my account”

Download prayers to celebrate the beatification of Blessed Oscar Romero

Romero spoke out about the injustices and killings in El Salvador during his time as Archbishop from 1977 to 1980. In doing so, Romero systematic undermined the rich and powerful and faced death threats to stop him speaking out.

Continue reading “Oscar Romero: An inspiration who spoke out for the poor”