Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – The effects of climate change on water

CAFOD gap year volunteer Danielle Storey has written about how climate change is impacting upon water supplies in Zimbabwe. Our 2016 Lent Appeal is focused on providing people with access to water.

Danielle has seen the impacts of climate change in Zimbabwe
Danielle has seen the impacts of climate change in Zimbabwe

The climate is changing. We can all easily fall into the habit of ignoring it, thinking it doesn’t affect me or it’s not that bad, my actions are only small so I can’t do anything about it. That’s what I thought too before I began my gap year with CAFOD. However countries all over the world, especially in recent years, are beginning to feel the effects of extreme weather events, including the UK with the recent devastating floods. We need to acknowledge that climate change is real and affecting people now.

Call for action to tackle climate change

Zimbabwe, along with other sub-Saharan African countries, is experiencing a severe drought. A priest we met while visiting CAFOD partner Mashambanzou told us that this is by far the worst he’s ever seen in the 30 years he’s been here. It’s been evident since we arrived here in Zimbabwe when we saw how dry and small the maize and other crops were for this time of year – there hadn’t been any rain for six weeks and it’s supposed to be the rainy season. Continue reading “Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – The effects of climate change on water”

Contemplating the river of mercy

Rachel McCarthy works in the CAFOD Theology Programme. She reflects on the journey of Lent in this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.  

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“The great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly” Misericordiae Vultus #25

As we celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, we are called to reflect on God’s overflowing love for us all. In the pastoral letter Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis invites us to contemplate God’s mercy as “a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people draw from it” #25. Lent offers an opportunity to draw from the wellsprings, to feel the refreshing waters pour over us, and to share this source of life and love with our neighbours.

The Year of Mercy is not something to be rushed into. For me, throwing ourselves into a sort of hurried anxiety to appear merciful to others would be missing the point. The holy year is, similarly to the season of Lent, more of a journey on which the Lord accompanies us.

To truly understand what it means to be merciful, we must first reflect on the mercy we have received from God. I recall a few times in my life when I have been touched by God’s mercy. One which stands out was when I was sitting on the ground, reflecting through imaginative contemplation on the story of a woman who was a sinner (Luke 7:36-50). The woman bends down to Jesus, her tears falling upon his feet and she wipes them away with her hair. Listening to the words of the Gospel with the summer’s breeze flowing through my hair, I felt the same feeling I do every year on kissing the Cross on Good Friday: an outpouring of love for God.

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It is worth meditating on the words of the Gospel to understand the mystery of mercy. While they are at table together, Jesus says to Simon, “I tell you that her sins, many as they are, have been forgiven her, because she has shown such great love. It is someone who is forgiven little who shows little love” (Luke 7:47). Continue reading “Contemplating the river of mercy”

How far does your Gift Aid go?

Haoua Balma at St Augustine Health Centre, Niamey.
The Gift Aid on a £10 Fast Day donation – £2.50 – could pay for antibiotics at a health centre in Niger.

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.

Find resources to start fundraising for Lent Fast Day 2016

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?”

New Year in Myanmar

Myanmar - woman prayingPaula Nyunt from our Humanitarian team, who is originally from Myanmar, reflects on the country’s New Year festivities.

Support CAFOD’s work in Myanmar and across the world this Lent

As Myanmar, Cambodia and Bangladesh celebrate New Year this week, I was reminded of my childhood when we celebrated the water festival in the city that was then Rangoon.

Myanmar has 12 festivals, one each month around the full moon day. But Myanmar’s New Year water festival, Thin-gyan, is the most famous, often with street celebrations as well as various religious activities. It usually falls around mid-April and it is celebrated over a period of four to five days ending in the New Year.

There is a great deal of friendliness and goodwill among people during the festival. The sprinkling of water is intended to symbolically “wash away” one’s iniquities. In major cities such as Yangon and Mandalay, garden hoses or locally made water shooters and other devices from which water can be sprayed are used, in addition to simple bowls and cups. Sometimes water balloons and even fire hoses have been used. It is the hottest time of the year and a good dousing is welcomed by most.

During the Water Festival, the Myanmar government relaxes the restrictions on gatherings. However, the lack of water in recent years has restricted the use of large quantities of water in some parts of the country.

Temporary water-spraying stations are set up, and double as dance floors, many of them are sponsored by wealthy families and businesses. Street performances and traditional floats by puppeteers, orchestras, dance troupes, comedians, actors and singers singing and chanting slogans are commonplace. Support CAFOD’s work in Myanmar and across the world this Lent  Continue reading “New Year in Myanmar”

Lent 2015: Pray and Fast for the Climate

Fast and Pray for the ClimateLent is traditionally a time of fasting and prayer, to give thanks for what we have and remember those who have less.

Donate to CAFOD this Lent and every £1 you give will be matched by the UK government, up to £5 million

Barbara Kentish (pictured centre) is the Justice and Peace worker for Westminster diocese and a CAFOD supporter. She explains here why she’s extended the practice of fasting to the first of every month, and why fasting and prayer is gaining momentum with people of all faiths as a way to highlight the need for urgent global action on climate change.

I have worked all my life for inclusion of one kind or another: race, rich and poor, gender and culture. Climate change challenges all of us to see ourselves in relation to the whole human family and to deepen our solidarity in order to address our common future.

It was my sister who first got me involved in climate change campaigning. She is an eco-theologian with a deep expertise on drought in Rajasthan. But I’ve also been influenced by close friends who have been climate advocates for decades.

Add your voice – email party leaders calling for action on climate change

Why fast and pray?

The idea of praying and fasting for the climate came from Yeb Sano, Filipino leader of his country’s delegation to the Warsaw Climate talks in 2013.

He made an impassioned speech about the devastating effects of Typhoon Haiyan in his country and pledged to fast for the climate until an effective international solution had been reached. He will also be walking from Rome to Paris in December, with a copy of the Pope’s forthcoming encyclical, in the lead up to the COP 21 climate change talks in Paris.  Continue reading “Lent 2015: Pray and Fast for the Climate”

Lent 2015 appeal: What matters?

Mark Chamberlain is a writer with CAFOD. Already a vegetarian, this Lent he is going vegan by giving up eggs, dairy and honey. He will donate the money he saves to CAFOD and is hoping that his Lenten food choices will help him to reaffirm his belief in non-violence.

I dreamed of an egg last night. A single poached egg, lightly salted on a slice of toast. And as I went to pick up my knife and fork…I woke.

A few years back, when I became vegetarian, I had a similar dream about a giant slice of ham. The ham was huge and was draped over me. I realised the only way to escape was to eat my way out of it. And as I opened my mouth to start feasting…I woke.

I told the ham story to a friend. He had spent time in the Himalayas when he was younger and said when he trekked through the range, his group had run very low on food. After a week or so, he had a dream that his group were all lambs and that the only way to escape starvation was to carry them in his stomach to the nearest town. The good news is, he’s alive and being the lovely chap he is, he didn’t resort to cannibalism.

Every £1 you donate this Lent to the CAFOD Lent Appeal, the UK government will match Continue reading “Lent 2015 appeal: What matters?”

Cutting out petrol for Lent: Father David’s electric car challenge for CAFOD

Father David with a Nissan Leaf
Father David will by driving an electric Nissan Leaf during Lent 2015

Father David Osbourne is the Parish priest of Cranleigh and Bramley. This Lent he’s cutting out petrol and will be donating all of the money saved to the CAFOD Lent Appeal. The help complete his petrol-free Lent challenge, Crawley Nissan have allowed him to borrow a new Nissan Leaf car.

For me, this Lent, ‘Cut it Out!’ means trying to cut out some use of fossil fuels used in motoring and thus call attention to alternative power sources and uses. This may highlight our almost total dependence on fossil fuels which are not only irreplaceable but are contributing to the largest contemporary threat to civilization – global warming.

Find ideas for how you can reduce your carbon footprint this Lent

I have been loaned an electric car by Nissan to experience whether battery powered vehicles are an alternative not only for the “keenies” but a viable alternative for mass transport.

I’m not sure that’s possible either!

Continue reading “Cutting out petrol for Lent: Father David’s electric car challenge for CAFOD”

Lent 2015: Giving up is hard to do (especially when it comes to tea)

Giving up tea for CAFOD for Lent
Enjoying my last cup of tea until Easter

Sarah works in CAFOD’s campaigns team.

It’s been nearly two weeks since I starting cutting out tea for Lent, in a quest to raise money for CAFOD’s Lent appeal and gain support for our One Climate, One World campaign.

Progress so far

Money raised: £326.76  (you can still sponsor me!)

Petition signatures reported: 10 (you can still sign our climate petition!)

Cups of tea not drunk: approx 60

Lessons learnt from this challenge: 6 – and here they are….

Lesson one: Giving up is hard to do.

This challenge has renewed my respect for the all the ex-smokers, the non-drinkers and the vegetarians who have said goodbye to bacon butties for the sake of the planet. I know that by Easter I’ll have a steaming cup of tea in my hand again, but to give up something forever, wow, that takes commitment. Continue reading “Lent 2015: Giving up is hard to do (especially when it comes to tea)”

Building a future after Myanmar’s biggest natural disaster

By Mark Chamberlain, Communications Officer

Martin - emergency drill - Myanmar - DRR CAFOD (2)
Martin, Myanmar

Martin was six when his small bamboo home in Myanmar’s southwestern jungle was blown away by a terrifying 145mph tropical storm.

I ask him what he remembers most from that night and the small, talkative boy is quiet for a few seconds, then smiles nervously: “I couldn’t hear other people calling out or crying, I could just hear the screaming voice of the wind.”

In minutes, houses where generations of people had lived were snatched from the ground and splintered across the land. Essentials like food, money and clothes were thrown into the nearby river and for miles across the land. Countless people were killed. In one village down the river, one out of every two were taken by the wind.

“It was dark and the wind was all around,” Martin says of that Friday in 2008. “My dad picked me up from our home and ran and ran. We didn’t know where to go or where to hide, but we went to the school.”

Donate to CAFOD’s Lent Appeal

Myanmar – the country formerly known as ‘Burma’ – faces small, localised cyclones every year. But nothing on the scale of Cyclone Nargis. Martin’s family, like many others in the village, ran in that May darkness, but they didn’t know where to or what to do when they arrived at their destination. Rebecca Murphy, CAFOD’s disaster risk reduction expert says: “This is the key moment when the initial effects of a disaster can be managed. So many lives can be saved just by ensuring a community has access to an early warning system, knows where to go and what to do when a cyclone hits.” Continue reading “Building a future after Myanmar’s biggest natural disaster”

Lent 2015: World Day of Social Justice

Liam Finn is CAFOD’s Regional Media Officer. His personal Lent journal today focuses on World Day of Social Justice.

Lent journal, Shouting for social justice
Shouting for social justice

“Why do you want this job?”

“I don’t really. I don’t want CAFOD to exist.”

That was how I started to answer the question from my boss in my CAFOD interview. It might seem a mad response to someone in the hope that they would offer me the job. But I meant it. CAFOD exists because social injustices exist. I really wanted my job, and – *spoiler alert* – I was offered it. Yet I would much rather live in a world where people don’t go hungry or lack access to clean water, where people don’t have to flee from wars or oppression, and where people have the same means as others in richer countries to withstand disasters and rebuild their lives afterwards. We at CAFOD work to achieve that world and make ourselves unnecessary in the future: we work for social justice.

Donate to our Lent Appeal and support CAFOD’s work

What is social justice?

CAFOD has a long history of campaigning for social justice
CAFOD has a long history of campaigning for social justice

Today is World Day of Social Justice. I’ve been using the day to consider what social justice means. I studied Law at university because I wanted to learn about what justice is, and how to bring it about in the world. I believe that basic justice is achieved when everyone has seven things: Continue reading “Lent 2015: World Day of Social Justice”