Step into the Gap – reflections on the first week in Zimbabwe

Jason Sheehan and Joanna Knight are two of CAFOD’s gap year volunteers. They’ve written about their experiences from their first week in Zimbabwe:

Jason

Jason is visiting projects CAFOD supports in Zimbabwe
Jason is visiting projects CAFOD supports in Zimbabwe

We’re one week in to what’s already been an amazing adventure and I’ve experienced so much. The best thing about this trip so far has been the opportunity to meet and talk with so many different people and about so many different issues.

One of the biggest talking points so far has been the drought that Zimbabwe and many other African countries are experiencing. The thing that stood out to me the most is that it’s not just the farmers talking about the effects the drought has and will have on them; everyone is discussing it. I hear a lot about the effects of climate change at home but it wasn’t until I witnessed the repercussions in person that it became real and – if I’m honest – quite frightening. Continue reading “Step into the Gap – reflections on the first week in Zimbabwe”

Step into the Gap – Adventures in Peru

Fiona Sim is one of our gap year volunteers. Here are some of her reflections from her first week seeing projects CAFOD supports in Peru:

Fiona (right) with women from Lomas de Carabayllo's comedors
Fiona (right) with women from Lomas de Carabayllo’s comedors

From working with the dynamic children of Warmi Huasi to meeting the inspirational residents of Lomas de Carabayllo, it has been a jam-packed first week of our journey. Though it’s been quite an intense week, I feel so privileged to have been able to meet and learn from so many amazing people already. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel like I’ve met some of the real life super heroes of our time. These people have no special powers, no soothsaying abilities, and no fancy capes. This is what they do have: resilience, strength, and a kitchen at their fingertips.

These are the wonderful women of two of Lomas de Carabayllo’s comedors. These communal kitchens provide a subsidised lunch to people who need it in the community—those who would struggle to afford hearty meals otherwise—from Monday to Friday. The staff members themselves are part of the same community and earn free meals through working at the comedor when they can.

Buy Food for a Family with CAFOD’s World Gifts Continue reading “Step into the Gap – Adventures in Peru”

Step into the Gap: a gap year with a difference

Applications for the CAFOD Gap Year, Step into the Gap, are now open. Julia Corcoran took part in the programme in 2013 /14, and in this blog describes her experience.

SITG_volunteers2013
Julia (second row, second from right) with fellow Step into the Gap volunteers in 2013

Two years ago I wrote a reflection on why I was really excited to be travelling to Sierra Leone. In those two years my life has taken a completely different turn and that’s mainly down to my experiences on Step into the Gap.Find out more about Step into the Gap

During my time on the programme my placement was at YMT, (the Youth service for Hexham and Newcastle) running retreats in the Emmaus Youth Village where groups of young people come to take time out, reflect on their lives, realise the impact they have on the world and hopefully the impact God has in their lives. During my time there I had a variety of opportunities to work with young people from leading Morning Prayer, helping to run youth festivals and running workshops, as well as going into schools for assemblies and speaking during Mass in the local parishes and at the Cathedral.

Continue reading “Step into the Gap: a gap year with a difference”

Close-up on Climate: Bernie’s reflection on St Mary’s, Blackpool’s outstanding video entry

Gapper Bernie at the climate lobby
Bernie worked at St Mary’s, Blackpool, as part of her year with Step Into the Gap

The Climate Coalition ran the film project, Close-up on Climate, which invited young people between the ages of 5-18 to make films highlighting the issue of climate change. Three films were chosen as being outstanding in each age category. Bernie Goddard, who took part in CAFOD’s Step into the Gap programme last year, writes about her experience of working with the young people at St Mary’s Blackpool to make their film.

Get involved with the Climate Campaign

As a Gapper at St Mary’s, part of my role was to keep an eye out for what projects CAFOD were running which I could encourage students to get involved in. The Climate Coalition film project, Close-up, was an amazing way to get students involved in a current issue which they had heard about from me when I returned from Nicaragua and shared my experiences with them. I had also spent time attending meetings with CAFOD and had heard of the Climate Coalition: the coming together of many organisations to focus on climate change education and campaigning. This, along with seeing the effects of how climate change impacts others in our world, inspired me to get the young people involved in this project.

Continue reading “Close-up on Climate: Bernie’s reflection on St Mary’s, Blackpool’s outstanding video entry”

Step into the Gap – Welcome to the new CAFOD gap year volunteers!

We’d like to introduce the new CAFOD gap year volunteers! They’ve been settling into their new placements with our Step into the Gap scheme and have each written a few words on their hopes for the year ahead.

Bea – Nottingham 

Bea has joined Step into the Gap in Nottingham
Bea has joined Step into the Gap in Nottingham

Hello I’m Bea and I’m part of CAFOD’s Step into the Gap programme based at The Briars Catholic Youth Retreat Centre in the Nottingham Diocese. I wanted to explore my passion for social justice, so when the opportunity arose to be on the Step into the Gap programme I jumped at the chance! And I can’t believe I’m part of – it’s so exciting!

Continue reading “Step into the Gap – Welcome to the new CAFOD gap year volunteers!”

Nicaragua: ‘Without the land we have nothing’

On World Environment Day, Stephanie Beech talks about the people she met on a recent trip to Nicaragua as part of the Step into the Gap programme. Stephanie is based in the Good Shepherd Parish in Pendle.

DSCN1879
Stephanie (left) in El Caimito

Jose and Marcelina are brother and sister, in a family of 15 siblings  living in a small community called El Caimito in rural Nicaragua, Central America. As they stand in front of their land, they have many stories to tell about growing up in such a large family in the 1980s, including how they would spend up to 12 hours a day working the land. Marcelina told me “It was more important than going to school in order to support such a large family.”

CAFOD partner John XXIII supports a cooperative in El Caimito and the surrounding region. It was set up two years ago and now has 53 members. As a group, they learn about the environment, how to best look after their animals, how to preserve water and many other skills. They also have opportunities to share ideas and initiatives with other communities. Although each family may grow their own food or have their own animals, they come together to learn from each other how to make the most of what land and opportunities they have. Once a year they also have the opportunity to sell their produce together as a cooperative in the capital city, Managua.

Jose and Marcelina now have their own families and talk about how much better life is with the cooperative; “We are now able to feed our families, sell to market and send our children to school”.

Tell your MP why you care about climate change

Continue reading “Nicaragua: ‘Without the land we have nothing’”

Step into the Gap: Three weeks on from Flame 2!

Chris, Leila and Mary on stage at Flame 2.
Chris, Leila and Mary on stage at Flame 2.

Three weeks after Flame 2, CAFOD Step into the Gap volunteers, Leila, Chris and Mary reflect on what it meant to speak on stage in front of 8,000 people at the SSE Arena, Wembley.  

Chris says: “I don’t often lie. But when asked ‘Are you ok Chris?’ Before going on stage I told a big fat whopper. I said ‘Yeah, fine’, as coolly as possible. Inside I was secretly in turmoil with questions like ‘What if you burp into the microphone in front of 8,000 people?’ popping into my head. (In my defence, I thought saying I was nervous would have only made us all more nervous.) But once on stage, I relaxed and, surprisingly, enjoyed it.

Watch Chris, Mary and Leila on stage at Flame:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-mUC-s5bHk?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

What really touched me was the response from people after. Young people were saying to me things like ‘Wow, I would love to do something like that. How can I apply?’ It made me realise what we said on stage really affected people. We made a difference.” Continue reading “Step into the Gap: Three weeks on from Flame 2!”

Lent 2015: Ann faces the challenge of a 5.30 alarm with no snooze button

Ann Hayes works in CAFOD’s Clifton Office. This Lent, she has challenged herself to cut out using the snooze button on her alarm clock.

Ann Snooze
Ann will be cutting out using her snooze button this Lent

The first two weeks of my Lenten challenge had been going surprisingly well, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. But the real test was looming on the horizon: would I be able to get up at 5.30 to make it to Flame 2?

For Lent, I have chosen to give up pressing snooze on my alarm. This is a pretty big challenge for me as I am a serial snoozer, often snoozing for 45 minutes before dragging myself out of bed and running around the house to get ready on time! I had plenty of tips from family and friends on how to make sure I got up in the morning, from sleeping with the curtains open, to drinking a pint of water as soon as I wake up, but actually apart from feeling pretty awful for the first few days, willpower has really been helping me get through.

And what a joy it is to get up earlier in the morning! It gives me time to get a sensible breakfast, chat to my housemates, and relax whilst getting ready for work. I’m lucky to be able to take a few quiet moments eating my breakfast and looking out into our beautiful garden, and even in these few weeks it’s been great to see Spring arriving. I’ve also taken the opportunity to pray every morning, thanking God for my day, and reflecting with the CAFOD Lent Calendar.

Continue reading “Lent 2015: Ann faces the challenge of a 5.30 alarm with no snooze button”

Step into the Gap – preparing for Flame 2!

Leila, Chris and  Mary preparing to speak at Flame 2.
Leila, Chris and Mary preparing to speak at Flame 2.

Lucy, from CAFOD’s Youth Team, explains how Step into the Gap volunteers Mary, Chris and Leila are preparing for speaking on stage to 8000 young Catholics at Flame 2.

We’re so excited here in the youth team – we’ve been planning and preparing for Flame 2 since last September and can’t believe that it’s now less than two weeks away! Flame 2 is a national youth congress on March 7th, where 8,000 young people from England and Wales will gather at the SSE Arena, Wembley, to celebrate their faith. CAFOD is privileged to be a part of it.

Check out the Flame 2 trailer. Continue reading “Step into the Gap – preparing for Flame 2!”