Chris Bain is CAFOD’s Director. Here he reflects on what CAFOD’s Fast Day means to him and why it is important to come together as a Catholic family this Lent.
Here in Romero House, our Ash Wednesday Mass is rather special. There is a strong sense of community – we stand together, we pray together and we take Communion together. The Mass ends and many of us begin the first fast of Lent by sharing a simple lunch together. And unlike Carol Monaghan, the SNP MP attending a parliamentary committee just after her Ash Wednesday Mass, there is no awkwardness about wearing our ash crosses in our offices.
CAFOD was founded when women from the National Board of Catholic Women, the Catholic Women’s League and the Union of Catholic Mothers organised the first CAFOD Family Fast Day in 1960. Mildred Nevile, who was involved at the time, shares her memories of this key moment in CAFOD history.
When Fast Day first took place, many families saw it as an opportunity to practice giving something up – voluntarily – and for the sake of others.
In the early 1960s, the Catholic community was much less affluent than it is today. Many people had known hardship and poverty and had sympathy for those who were struggling to survive.
As our Hands On Kitui journey comes to an end, three people who have worked on the project share their thanks. George Wambugu, CAFOD’s water specialist, worked on the water project right from the beginning during the planning stages.
As a water expert, I know how vital it is to have access to water all year round – vital for the health and wellbeing not only of the people, but of the animals and plants. So I am immensely excited to be able to tell you that, after two years of hard work, the community in Kitui now have reliable access to clean water.
Looking to the coming years, I know that the great dam and the wells are going to provide water for the whole community, even in the dry seasons.
Thank you so much for all your donations, prayers and love over the past two years. We couldn’t have achieved this without you.
Mike Gilligan from Liverpool Diocese is one of 1,700 Hands On supporters who were all inspired to fund a two-year water project in Kitui, Kenya. Hands On supporters in England and Wales followed the community’s progress in Kitui, and each month sent vital donations, encouragement and prayers.
Mike shares why Hands On is so special to him.
I first heard about Hands On through a flyer. It sounded like a very good idea, as the community were helping themselves and not relying on external organisations. It also gave me the opportunity to do my bit. I am helping someone, somewhere, in a place I can’t dream of seeing. Here in the UK we have an over-plentiful supply of water, but people in Kenya have such little water to work with. Clean water is vital – that’s why I signed up to help. Continue reading “Clean water is vital – How Mike from Liverpool brought water to a remote Kenyan community”
Stella took part in our first Hands On project in Kitui, Kenya. Over two years, hundreds of people in Kitui were supported by more than 1,700 CAFOD supporters to rebuild their community dam and bring water back to the area. Having water nearby means families can irrigate their crops and don‘t have to spend hours walking to and from the river each day.
I am very grateful to you for giving donations and enabling us to carry out this project.
The project has meant I am able to get a job and manage a small income. With my income I am able to buy seeds for my farm and cement so I can build a strong house. Before there was such a challenge with food that I had to divert all my energy and resources to food.
Thanks to the Hands On project activities, even at this time of year before the rains have come, we have food stored. I am able to harvest enough and still have surplus to sell so I can pay for my kids to go to school. Last term I sold beans to the school in exchange for school fees. Continue reading “Letter from Stella in Kenya”
CAFOD writer, Mark Chamberlain recently travelled to Uganda. This Mothering Sunday, he writes on some of the women he met and how they reminded him of his own family.
There was a point when I stood sheltering from those first welcome rains that everything seemed still. It was so strange. Teko Anna’s children running through that heavy roar – Daphne, her nine-year-old over there under the roof of her uncle’s house, jumping in the quickly forming puddles. The younger ones watching Daphne, following her, copying her actions with awkward limbs, splashing though the same puddles.
Proscovia now through the lines of water running with a box of ducklings, bringing them in from the rain.
Grace Cowley coordinates CAFOD’s Lent Fast Day Appeal. Here she tells us why she’s so passionate about Gift Aid and the difference it makes to CAFOD’s partners around the world.
The Gift Aid system, which gives back tax to charities from donations from tax payers, has just turned 25 years old. You’ll have seen Gift Aid forms when making donations, but it may surprise you just how special this little form is.
“It might just be a drop in the ocean, but the ocean is made up of lots of drops.” Evelina Manola, Caritas Hellas in Greece
In the past 25 years, CAFOD has received £42 million in Gift Aid. That money can be used for any project around the world, which means it can pay for work in places of great poverty, which perhaps aren’t in the headlines.
This is the heart of why Gift Aid is brilliant – because it enables more people to overcome poverty and injustice. The Gift Aid on £1 – 25p – could buy enough rice to feed a family for a day after a natural disaster. The Gift Aid on a £10 Fast Day donation – £2.50 – could pay for antibiotics at a health centre in Niger. Continue reading “How far does your Gift Aid go?”
On International Migrants Day, CAFOD’s Susy Brouard reflects on the Jubilee of Mercy and compassion for refugees.
Susy Brouard from CAFOD’s Theology Programme reflects on the new Doors of Mercy which are being opened around the world, and the ones which already exist…..
Last week Pope Francis launched the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy by pushing open the normally bricked-up bronze doors of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This was the very first Door of Mercy to be opened this Jubilee year, which began 8 December. The Holy Father asked Catholics that as they walk through it, they should take on the role of the Good Samaritan.
Throughout England and Wales, dioceses, schools and parishes have taken up the Pope’s initiative in diverse ways – my personal favourite is the Jubilee of Mercy double-decker bus which will tour parts of Greater Manchester and Lancaster come February next year. Inside, priests will be available for confession, a blessing or simply a chat.
Opening new Doors of Mercy is a fantastic idea which will open up spaces where people can find healing and reconciliation. However, last week, in conversation with a Religious sister who works with vulnerable women, she raised the fact that there already are, within and outside the Catholic Church, Doors of Mercy, which people walk through daily and find places of healing and sanctuary. How true, I thought!
As a CAFOD member of staff I began to reflect on where the Doors of Mercy are in our work. I thought immediately of the work that our sister agencies in the Caritas network are doing with refugees. Surely any entrance to a building which provides a safe refuge for those who have nothing is a Door of Mercy? Surely any entrance to a building which provides sanitation facilities, psychosocial support and above all, a warm and genuine welcome, is a Door of Mercy? These Doors, as well as the new ones, need to be highlighted and celebrated.
Tabitha Ross is a CAFOD freelancer who works in Lebanon. On International Day of Peace she tells us about Eman and Hanigal – two mothers who have been forced to leave their homes in Syria because of the ongoing conflict.
Sitting on a blanket on the grass in the warmth of the sun, Eman looks shell-shocked to find herself in Lebanon, safe from the fear of violence for the first time in nearly four years. When I meet her, she has been here just over two weeks.
Despite coming from Daraa, the region of Syria where the uprising first began on 15 March 2011, and which has seen bitter fighting and bombing, Eman only decided to flee the country this year.
I ask what was the final straw, after so much suffering, that pushed her to leave. With tears in her eyes she said: “At the start of the war my husband disappeared, so I didn’t want to leave because I had the idea that he would come back. But in February my house was bombed and destroyed, so I decided to come here.”
Eman tells me how she and her four children spent three days on the road from Daraa to Damascus. Reaching the capital, they spent two nights sleeping in the freezing street. Finally a taxi driver took pity on them and brought them here to Lebanon, where she is staying with a cousin in an unfinished breeze block construction in the Bekaa Valley.
About the author: Jo Joyner is an award-winning actress and CAFOD supporter whose work includes No Angels, EastEnders, Ordinary Lies and The Interceptor. In July 2015, Jo travelled to Nepal where she met communities who were severely affected by the devastating earthquakes and saw how crucial the work of CAFOD’s local partners had been in providing life-saving aid. In the third of three blogs, Jo writes about her experience. Read Jo’s first and second blogs.
Many of Nepal’s schools were decimated by the earthquakes and for safety reasons the government put a hold on all school attendance for a month. This was to give the authorities time to visit those schools that were still standing but fractured, to give them the official stamp from the engineers and approve them as safe enough to house the nation’s young minds.
People I met told me that there was relief that the initial earthquake happened on a Saturday because this meant that many of the children were either outside playing or working in the fields. Open space is the safest place to be when there is an earthquake and looking at the rubble of a school in the heart of the old town of Kathmandu, I shuddered at the thought of that massive earthquake happening during the week, when families were separated and the schools were full.
We visited Mary Ward School in Kathmandu, which Caritas Nepal has been supporting for more than ten years. The girls at the school are the daughters of migrant workers from the countryside who have come to the city from rural villages.
The school is run by Sister Asha – whose name fittingly means ‘hope’. She has worked across South Asia for a lot of her formidable career, and when I asked her which country she preferred to work in, she replied sincerely, “I prefer to be where I am needed. I have God in my heart and do good work. So wherever I am, I am happy”.
The school is a sanctuary off a bustling, broken, dusty road. When the school’s iron-gates close the peaceful, plant-draped courtyard of Mary Ward School wraps its knowledgeable bricks around you.
We were greeted on arrival by an entire playground of immaculate students. I was instantly ashamed at the dishevelled state my twins are often in when they are thrown through the school gates – always late despite living on the doorstep. The students of this school were stood silently with radiant smiles, in pristine shirts and double plaits. They were proud. Proud to be dressed smartly. Proud to be clean and washed. Proud and hungry to once again be allowed to learn, read, write, sing and dance.