Clare Grimes is a CAFOD schools volunteer working with children in the Hallam diocese. Over the last few months Clare has been running the Year of Mercy pilgrimage with children, and has been encouraging schools to take part in the refugee action.
‘I was moved by the child who shared that his hope was to see the world at peace with no more wars.‘
Friday 17 June was a nice sunny day and I felt very happy to be visiting St Thomas More school in Sheffield to hold a ‘Welcome the stranger’ refugee workshop with a Year 6 class. Alex and Rose, two other volunteers for CAFOD were also coming to help. I had led this workshop with other schools and had excellent response and participation, so I was really looking forward to another opportunity. The children entered the hall very quietly and looked happy and expectant.
We began with a presentation of various pictures of refugees and shared the facts and figures. The children answered questions intelligently and eagerly. When asked about their hopes and dreams they were forthcoming and shared their aspirations to be actresses, doctors, teachers, just to get married, Olympic athletes, and footballers of note.
I was moved by the child who shared that his hope was to see the world at peace with no more wars.
We then showed the film/video of the refugee children and their hopes and dreams.
Molly is a year 10 student from London who spent part of the summer on work experience with CAFOD in the education team. In this blog she writes about her experience taking a pilgrimage in solidarity with refugees.
“I met so many people with such amazing and inspiring stories of their life, and how they had come to this country wanting safety and peace.” Molly
In May my dad, brother and I walked the 74 mile pilgrimage from London to Canterbury with 100 other people. The pilgrimage is an annual event which is run by ‘The Connection’ at St-Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, London, and this year was its 26th pilgrimage.
We started from St Martin-in-the-fields church on the Friday morning and finished at Canterbury Cathedral on the Monday afternoon. The pilgrimage was to help fundraise and raise money for homeless people and refugees around London and in our country, and the pilgrimage was also a chance to have fun and meet new people.
When I was on the walk I talked to so many new people, including some refugees who did not have any were to stay, but they go to ‘The Connection’ at St Martins where volunteers give them a place to shower, eat, wash their clothes etc.
In October, CAFOD supporters will be amongst thousands of people Speaking Up to our MPs about how renewable energy can help poor communities and tackle climate change. Yet the idea of lobbying your MP can be daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before.
Ruth Stanley, CAFOD’s parliamentary officer, spends her days encouraging MPs to support CAFOD’s work in the House of Commons. We asked her to address some of our most common fears about lobbying MPs head-on.
(1) “… but I didn’t vote for them”
If you live in their constituency, your MP represents you. It doesn’t matter whether you voted for them. It doesn’t matter if you agree with them. If doesn’t even matter if you are too young to vote or if you aren’t registered. They represent you, so you have a right to contact them.
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.
For World Refugee Day, CAFOD communications officer, Mark Chamberlain reflects on attitudes towards refugees
In the past fortnight a time machine took me back to the late 1980s. I was sitting watching my favourite tea-time programme: a re-run, in glorious Technicolor, of a McCarthy-era, American sci-fi series.
The meek, unsuspecting earthlings were being duped again, by the cold, cunning aliens. More invaders had landed in their town and were taking over. But the only people that could see this were a small boy who kept shouting for people to listen…and me.
This Lent, Joe Andrew celebrated 20 years of volunteering with CAFOD.Here, he writes about the journey on which volunteering has taken him:
My involvement with the Catholic Church and with groups like CAFOD has gone in waves or cycles all my life. As a teenager I was an altar boy, went to Mass several times a week, and did house-to-house collections, sponsored events, all that kind of thing.
In my 40s I returned to my youthful faith and enthusiasms, and with it a renewed sense that ‘faith without deeds is dead’. With a few like-minded people in the parish I helped set up a local CAFOD group. We did lots of different stuff: raised money by auctions, coffee mornings, raffles and all the things that Catholics are so good at. Within a few years, I felt the need to go further, and applied successfully to become what was then known as a Covenant Volunteer for Birmingham Archdiocesan CAFOD. (‘Covenant’ meant that you ‘covenanted’, that is, committed to spend x hours a year on work for CAFOD).
Now the arrangements are more informal and you do what you can. For me my main role is as a Media Volunteer, and I also speak at Mass around the two Fast Days, visit a few local schools at those times, and also help out with fixing up speakers at Mass for the two Fast Days.
Sicilian carpenter Francesco Tuccio makes rough crosses from the wreckage of boats carrying refugees that sank off the island of Lampedusa to offer to survivors as a symbol of their rescue and a sign of hope. Here, Francesco explains what motivated him to act.
In 2009, refugees started landing on the coast of Lampedusa. We, as residents, got to know the people, the victims and their families. I felt angry that no one was caring about so many tragedies and losses. It was a real injustice.
We were on the front line to help: to welcome refugees, feed them and treat them with respect. I got the impression that for the media they were second-class citizens not worth of attention, not even worth being mentioned in the papers.
I had never witnessed so much suffering in all my life. To see people going through so much pain, seeing mothers losing their children or a husband was very hard. It is difficult to describe how I felt when faced with so many tragedies.
So, as a Catholic inspired by the suffering Jesus Christ went through on the cross, I wanted to create crosses to give hope and a better future to those who were suffering so much. This action has been appreciated by so many people.
Tom Hallsworth works with Animate Youth Ministries in St Helen’s in the Liverpool Archdiocese, leading retreat days with young people aged 11-25 to inspire them to live out the Gospel and social justice. He’s part of the CAFOD ambassador scheme, connecting CAFOD with youth centres across the country.
I’ve been working hard to help young people to understand the refugee crisis, and see what we can do to help. I organised a session in my church where we started with an icebreaker on refugee statistics and also had interactive prayer stations to help people to reflect and think about refugees.
The young people found it really striking that more than half of refugees worldwide are under 18 years old. It got us thinking about what it would be like to be in their shoes. My friend told me she was shocked that so many refugees are young, are unaccompanied children, why can’t they sort it out? It’s such a huge problem, there are just so many.
Then we used CAFOD’s Lampedusa cross action cards to write our own messages of hope for refugees. I’ve collected hundreds of these messages, and the numbers are still growing.
Gillie Drinkall has been volunteering with CAFOD for nine years. About two years ago she started writing to her MP about CAFOD campaigns. Back then she joined a group of CAFOD supporters visiting parliament, and heard from Nick Hurd MP about the impact of our campaigning. Here she tells us that story.
I first joined CAFOD as an Education Volunteer. That decision was based as much on proximity to CAFOD’s headquarters as any spiritual calling. But, within weeks of me joining, CAFOD had moved from Brixton, near my home, slightly further afield to Romero House. Furthermore, as an Education Volunteer I found myself, unsurprisingly, in schools rather than the office.
Seven hugely enjoyable years later, I now, in addition to the schools volunteering, spend one day a week helping the Campaigns Team at Romero House. It was here that, slightly inadvertently, I became an MP Correspondent (MPC).
Sarah Burrows from CAFOD’s Youth team describes how young people have been writing messages of love and hope for refugees .
CAFOD ambassadors from retreat and outreach teams have spent the past few months reflecting on the refugee crisis, responding by raising awareness and gathering messages of hope and love for refugees from the young people they work with. At the beginning of March the group came down to London to bring their messages to Parliament, and speak to their MPs about the refugee crisis. The day before, we had the chance to gather together, halfway through Lent, to reflect on the fact that refugees are such a huge part of the Year of Mercy, they are “brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.” (Pope Francis, 2014)