Jo Joyner’s visit to Nepal: Part 3

Jo Joyner gives a traditional Nepali greeting
Jo Joyner gives a traditional Nepali greeting

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.

Donate to our Nepal Earthquake Appeal

A sanctuary amongst the ruin

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.

Students at Mary Ward School
Students at Mary Ward School

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.

Continue reading “Jo Joyner’s visit to Nepal: Part 3”

Nepal earthquake: three months on

nullThree months since Nepal was devastated by an earthquake, CAFOD’s Nana Anto-Awuakye visited a community receiving support thanks to your donations. She writes:

As we bump along the narrow potholed roads in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, heading east for a village in the Kavrepalanchok district, it’s hard to imagine that this bustling city, along with the rest of the country, was struck by a violent earthquake just three months ago.

The earthquake that hit on 25 April shattered lives and reduced ancient and modern buildings, as well as family homes, to rubble within a matter of minutes. It left almost 9,000 people dead and thousands of others injured.

Not more than three weeks later, amid the ongoing rescue efforts and emergency aid distributions, another powerful tremor shook the country, claiming more lives and adding to the human suffering.

Donate to our Nepal Earthquake Appeal

It is testament to the Nepalese people that today you find terracotta bricks from collapsed buildings in Kathmandu organised into neat piles ready for re-use. It is only as you head out of the city on the tarmac road that you see structurally unsound, lopsided buildings, and houses cracked beyond repair. Seeing them jolts you into remembering the devastation the earthquake unleashed.

I ask our driver Rayesh how the capital has been cleared up and brought back to normal so quickly.

“We came together as a nation because we did not want to be defeated by this earthquake,” he says. “But you will see that in remote areas things are different.” Continue reading “Nepal earthquake: three months on”

Great Generation: Olivia talks about Nepal and the interfaith lobby of parliament

Hi! I’m Olivia, and I’m one of the CAFOD Young Leaders at St Joseph’s. I’ve been invited to be a guest editor for the blog this month, and want to share some news about CAFOD’s work in Nepal, and also the interfaith lobby of parliament that I was involved with as part of the One Climate One World campaign.

Watch this film to find out how CAFOD partners are responding to the Nepal earthquake.

A tent in Nepal
This man has been sleeping in a tent since his house was destroyed by the earthquake in Gorkha.
Credit: AFP PHOTO/ Matthieu Alexandre / Caritas Internationalis 

You will probably have seen the terrible news already, that a second major earthquake hit Nepal yesterday, just over two weeks after the first earthquake claimed more than 8,000 lives. I can’t even imagine how frightened everyone must be, desperately trying to contact their families to make sure they’re safe, staying outside in case more buildings collapse.

CAFOD partners are already there, on the ground finding out about what damage has been caused, and working our where the immediate need is. Continue reading “Great Generation: Olivia talks about Nepal and the interfaith lobby of parliament”

Ebola crisis: we are the foot soldiers

Please pray for all those affected by the Ebola virus

Burial team 1

In her second blog from Sierra Leone, Nana Anto-Awuakye writes about a volunteer burial team on the front line of the fight against Ebola.

We leave behind the bustle of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, where the Ebola prevention posters plastered across all available wall space, and on cars and motorbikes, are now looking tattered and faded.

The landscape changes from precarious half-built houses perched on the hillsides surrounding the city, to lush green savannah grasslands.

We are heading to Kambia in the north-east of the country, a district that became a hotspot as the Ebola epidemic gripped the country last year. Sandwiched between the urban district of Port Loko to the south and the border with Guinea – where the virus started – to the north, the odds seem stacked against this unassuming town.

But an amazing partnership has developed here between the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Health, local volunteers – including teachers, students and farmers – and CAFOD, to form the Safe and Dignified Burial team of Kambia. Together they have refused to be overwhelmed by the odds stacked against them.

Burial volunteers

On a piece of land the size of two football pitches is an important part of the operation – the Kambia Ebola Response Fleet site, managed by CAFOD and its local partner Caritas Makeni. Continue reading “Ebola crisis: we are the foot soldiers”

Ebola: my return to Sierra Leone

A CAFOD team prepares to carry out safe burials of people who have died because of Ebola.
A CAFOD team prepares to carry out safe burials of people who have died because of Ebola.

Eight years after her last visit, Nana Anto-Awuakye from CAFOD’s Communications team writes about returning to Sierra Leone to meet people on the front line in the struggle against the Ebola virus.

Please pray for all those affected by the Ebola virus

Before I left London, my colleague Amie came up to my desk and gave me a goodbye hug, saying: “We Sierra Leoneans love to hug.”

It has been difficult for people in Sierra Leone to hug over the last few months. Even though the Ebola virus has now been contained in most parts of the country, the “no touch” policy is still in place. When I arrive, I will have to check my automatic instinct to shake people’s hands, or to put a comforting hand on people’s shoulders when listening to their stories.

Recovering from war

I first visited Sierra Leone in 2007, several years after the country’s devastating civil war – a conflict in which tens of thousands of people died, and in which the brutal hacking off of limbs was all too common.

In the capital Freetown, watching the sunset turn the sky auburn over the city’s beautiful golden beaches, I remember finding it hard to imagine that this had once been a place of fear and bloodshed. At the time, everyone I met talked about “not wanting to go back”. They were confident in the peace that had been secured, and spoke only of a future of reconciliation and development.

Travelling to Kenema in the Eastern Province, I remember being greeted by the rolling green hills of Kambui, and in the town centre by whole streets lined with diamond buyers’ shops. I learned that Kenema was an important agricultural market town, as well as the centre for the timber industry and for the production of coffee and palm oil.

Epicentre of the virus

Last year Kenema was one of the areas at the epicentre of the Ebola virus. It was effectively locked down. Blockades on the main road ensured that no one entered or left the district, decimating its once thriving economy.

Continue reading “Ebola: my return to Sierra Leone”

Harsh life for Iraqis in Kurdistan

By Rachel Felgines from CAFOD partner Caritas International 

Help us respond to emergencies

Caritas distribute aid to Yazidi families in Zacho
CAFOD partners distribute aid to  families in Zakho

Zakho, northern Iraq. Against a green backdrop surrounded by peaks still capped with snow, the town’s small colourful houses – blue, green and pink – are ranged in bright sunlight under a deep blue sky. Yet who knows what kind of scenes are being played out today in these mountains, whose tranquillity is only a facade, and which now protect what has become a refuge for thousands of Iraqis who fled the violence and massacres that took place in Iraq last summer.

I’m on the road with the Caritas Iraq team, which is being supported by donations to CAFOD and other Catholic agencies around the world.

We stop in a no man’s land in front of a building of which only the ground level and foundations have been completed. This is where around 100 Yazidi families – from the community persecuted and massacred by the extremist group known as Islamic State – live, or rather are crammed together. The majority of these families live in what might one day be the garage of this building. Hidden underground. Pieces of wood, cloth, plexiglass and cardboard provide makeshift partitions to separate the families; a few square metres that disappear from view to give a semblance of privacy. A few light bulbs hang along the immense corridor trying in vain to illuminate the prevailing darkness. Indeed, this marks progress, as a few months ago there was no electricity at all. Total darkness confined within icy concrete walls.

Caritas heard about these families that are in a state of absolute destitution a few weeks ago and has come to meet them. When the Caritas Iraq team arrived in this makeshift camp, no-one took any notice of them. Several organisations had previously come to see these families, asked them questions and promised to bring them aid. But since then they have never returned. So these abandoned families have no reason to believe in any possible support, and in part rely only on themselves. Continue reading “Harsh life for Iraqis in Kurdistan”

Syria crisis: what’s it like to live without light?

Nick Harrop - CAFOD World News Officer
Nick Harrop


Four years since the start of the Syria crisis, Nick Harrop, CAFOD’s World News Officer, looks at what life is like for those living in Syria.

“I am worried for my children,” says a mother who fled to Lebanon. “They need to get an education. But I don’t feel safe to go home. Sadly I feel there is no future for my children in Syria now.”

“For four years, we have been living in the depths of the cold in a bloody war,” says a CAFOD partner delivering aid in Syria. “War has left us without any way to defend ourselves against the cold. We have no electricity most of the time, no fuel and no gas. We have no way to stay warm apart from putting on many layers of clothes, which don’t help so much when it’s minus eight degrees.”

Support those in Syria

“We used to have a home and a settled life,” says a father who has fled to a refugee camp in Jordan. “Our children went to school each day. But now…” – he shakes his head – “there is nothing left.”

How the crisis started

It is four years since a small group of demonstrators staged a protest against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. Within days, the protests spread, and several people were killed. It was a serious political crisis, and a significant moment in the so-called Arab Spring, but few would have imagined that it would turn into the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the twenty-first century. Continue reading “Syria crisis: what’s it like to live without light?”

Syrian crisis fourth anniversary: meet two families who fled to Lebanon

15 March sees the Syria crisis enter its fourth year. As the crisis continues to deepen, and the human suffering is greater than ever before, we would like to introduce you to two families who have been affected by the conflict in Syria. With money raised by CAFOD supporters across England and Wales our partner, Caritas Lebanon, is able to support Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict to Lebanon, with vital food, health and education services. 

As part of the #WithSyria campaign CAFOD is calling for world leaders to find a political agreement to end the conflict.

Sign the #WithSyria petition today

Abir and Tony

Abir, Tony and their triplets
Abir, Tony and their triplets

Abir and Tony are Syrian refugees who  fled to Lebanon in 2011, when the conflict intensified in their country.  Thirteen months ago they had they had triplets that were born ten weeks premature. With support from CAFOD partner Caritas Lebanon and from the UN Refugee Agency – UNHCR the babies received the vital hospital care they needed, and today all three children are healthy.  Continue reading “Syrian crisis fourth anniversary: meet two families who fled to Lebanon”