Jack works for CAFOD. He has occasionally received Christmas gifts he didn’t like, but not from you, he loved yours. Here he mulls on the simple switch he (and his relatives) can make, so that Christmas is happier for everyone.
Making a Christmas list
Presents make a lot more sense when you’re a kid.
You’ve got no income, except maybe 50p here or there if your parents have deep pockets, or deeper sofa cushions. But you’re surrounded with stuff to want. The cartoons you watch, the comics you read – most of them are little more than adverts for a corresponding range of fluorescent plastic junk. So once a year you make a list and hope you get some of that junk for Christmas. And that’s fine. No-one minds. It’s cute. Because you’re a child.
Rachel works for CAFOD. Here she reflects on how meeting Katy, a CAFOD Gapper, helped her to discover the power of a simple birth certificate, and inspired her to create a new, very special virtual gift for CAFOD’s World Gifts collection that will help babies and children around the world.
The importance of a birth certificate
A birth certificate. Every person needs one, it shows our citizenship, lets us get a passport – it tells the world who we are. And I think that here in the UK, we take this simple legal document for granted.
But for people living in poverty, perhaps in rural areas, where babies are born at home, it is often forgotten. And a child without a birth certificate faces problems.
In Zimbabwe, children without a birth certificate cannot go to school, take exams, apply for an ID card, vote, travel, nor access many other basic essential services.
I’ve worked in fundraising for years and am always eager to hear about how donations help. Katy, who recently travelled to Zimbabwe on a gap year trip with CAFOD, told me about the terrible and long-lasting impact of growing up without a birth certificate.
Katy said, “Children around the world continue to grow up without the basic human right of an identity.”
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.
Some of our Connect2 Brazil friends look back on 2017 and share how they are preparing for Christmas in their communities.
News from our partner MDF and the community of St. Joseph the Worker Pastoral Area
Jenilda – Vila Prudente Cultural Centre in the St Joseph the Worker Pastoral Area
“At the Vila Prudente Cultural Centre (CCVP) this year we organised different workshops with the children. Each month we had a different area of focus. From solidarity, to the family, the environment, which included a visit to the recycling cooperative. We worked on children’s rights and empowerment, Black History month against racism and discrimination, and in December we will celebrate the arrival of baby Jesus with a children’s concert.
Mary Lucas, our representative for the Middle East, describes what life is like for one young boy living in Gaza.
Mohammed was just nine when he and his sister, Doha, were orphaned. It was a hot summer in 2014 and the people of Gaza were struggling to survive an extreme military bombardment. Apartment blocks were falling in clouds of dust throughout the territory. Some nights, entire neighbourhoods were given a few minutes’ warning to leave – fleeing their homes to find safety wherever they could.
Mohammed’s family had to leave their home as it wasn’t safe. They were evacuated to a nearby school and like so many caught up in the conflict, struggled to get the essentials. Water pipes were damaged and food was expensive and running low in shops because of the bombing.
To ensure the family could survive, Mohammed’s parents would wait until there was a ceasefire and run to collect water and food.
That day, they decided to check on the house that they had spent years investing in for their family. As they approached the house, an explosion killed them both instantly. Shortly afterwards, another bomb reduced the house to rubble. Continue reading “Christmas in Gaza”
This year, CAFOD supporter Stephen Garsed is encouraging fellow parishioners at Our Lady and St Edward’s parish in Preston, to think about living simply and loving abundantly this Christmas. Here are his top six suggestions…
The word we hear so often in the weeks before Christmas is ‘tradition’. It is particularly promoted by the glossy magazines who like to sell us the concept of ‘the perfect Christmas’.
Rachel Simkin is CAFOD’s World Gifts Co-ordinator. She was inspired to share the story of 10-year-old Florence, who set herself a fundraising quest to buy World Gifts knowing they would bring a smile to others.
When I first heard about Florence’s quest to fundraise for World Gifts, I found it inspiring to hear of her energy and was delighted that she was encouraging so many to join her quest. Then I was even more amazed when I learnt she was just 10 years old!
Florence is one of CAFOD’s youngest local volunteers and has succesfuly inspired her Rotherham community to buy World Gifts to help communities across the world.
“I thought it was an awesome idea,” said Florence. “I really wanted to help people who didn’t have what I have got. Last Christmas, I asked my friends at school to make a donation instead of sending Christmas cards to each other. I made a speech after Mass and told the parishioners I would be selling raffle tickets and the winner of the raffle would get to choose the animal’s name.
“Everyone at school and in my parish joined in and it was so successful we raised enough money to buy two goats, Kathleen and Rosie, and Maisey the piglet.”
But Florence didn’t stop at Christmas; she decided to volunteer for CAFOD and organise more events throughout this year to encourage her fellow pupils to fundraise and learn about others across the world.
CAFOD volunteer Trevor Stockton, from St Anthony of Padua parish in Wolverhampton, reflects on the significance of Advent in his life, past and present.
Advent was a word I didn’t know about until I started going to church in my teens. The period before Christmas and Christmas itself really took on a new meaning for me thereafter.
Before then, as a child in a working class family in the 1940s, Christmas was simply all about having a few treats that we didn’t get all year round. Having an ordinary stocking filled with nuts, dates, a tangerine and other similar luxuries was amazing. A few, and I mean a few, simple presents followed by a family Christmas meal made the day. There was no television and the day continued with playing games. So, the weeks before Christmas were spent in anticipation of this special time.
Now, Advent means trying to put the religious significance into perspective against a backdrop of a society which seems to see Christmas as a purely commercial, money-making, money-spending time, whatever the cost to self, others and the environment.
After I have had the annual tussle with myself about the negatives of this commercial approach, Advent’s true significance to me is as a time of preparation for the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus – who forms the basis of our Christian faith.
Bernadette Goddard took part in the Step into the Gap programme last year. In this blog she describes why the work of partners in Nicaragua inspired her to ask for World Gifts as Christmas presents this year.
As Christmas approaches every year I am asked the question what would I like. It’s a double question for me as my birthday is just five days before Christmas, on 20 December. Each year I receive many gifts, often ones which, if I’m honest, I don’t need or use. In previous years I’ve asked for things which would be useful. Last year I was about to embark on a life changing trip with CAFOD to Nicaragua and people helped with my kit list, buying me useful items to take with me such as torches and plug adapters! This Christmas I have decided to appeal to family and friends on social media to buy World Gifts.