An Advent journey

During Advent Catherine Gorman from our Theology team remembers Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and reflects on the journeys that thousands of people still face today.

As we count down to Christmas we can get caught up in all the merriment and festive preparations. But what is this Advent season really about?

Use our Advent calendar throughout the season for daily prayer and reflection.

Advent is the time when we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Christ, now and at the end of time. We are reminded that Jesus is the Emmanuel – God with us. God is with every person, in every situation. No one is beyond the reach of God’s love.

Throughout all the festive hustle and bustle, I try to hold on to the idea that this is what we are really journeying towards – God’s love.

Continue reading “An Advent journey”

The power of a Birth certificate – a World Gifts update

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.

You can buy a Birth certificate World Gift so that a child can go to school

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.”

This startling comment gripped me.

Continue reading “The power of a Birth certificate – a World Gifts update”

Feel good about giving this Christmas with World Gifts

Feeling all shopped out

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?

My inspiration

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.

Goat that gives
The Goat that gives is a Christmas favourite. No surprise there. Just look at the little face.

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

The gift of play can change the lives of children living in violent, impoverished communities
The gift of play gives children the chance to be creative, play and make friends.

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.

Help a llama farmer to keep his llama happy and well fed all year
Help a llama farmer – Victor loves his llama!

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.

To add to the smiles, I’m now deciding who will be the happy recipient of my next World Gift, although it’s a very tough decision between Chirpy Chickens, Fantastic Fish and Wonderful Worms.

 

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.Fantastic fish gift from World Gifts

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.”

Buy a CAFOD World Gift for your loved ones this Christmas at cafod.org.uk/worldgifts

By Rosie Heaton, CAFOD’s Regional News Officer

Bringing childhoods back to life

Presenter and reporter Julie Etchingham travelled to Lebanon to see the work of CAFOD partner Caritas Lebanon.

Syrian refugee children at schoolSo I’m flying home early this morning after three eye-opening days in Lebanon – expertly guided by CAFOD and their partners on the ground Caritas Lebanon. As we wind slowly upwards away from Beirut, I’m thinking of all the children we met in the past few days.

Help a refugee child. This charity gift will give much-needed emotional and educational support to children who have fled the violent trauma of war. Continue reading “Bringing childhoods back to life”

Giving a charity goat this Christmas? All you’ve ever wanted to know about CAFOD World Gifts

World Gift goat kids in Ethiopia
A World Gift goat can provide nutritious milk for families in developing countries

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.

Browse CAFOD’s World Gifts

So, I’ve been finding out the answers to your top three goat gifting queries.

1. Will I find a goat on my doorstep?

When you buy a World Gift, whether it’s a goat, mosquito net, or drought-resistant seeds, the gift isn’t sent to you, but to poor communities and families in developing countries. So if you’re buying the gift on behalf of a friend, don’t worry, they won’t end up with a goat on their doorstep one morning. Instead you can send them a card that explains which gift has been bought in their name. Continue reading “Giving a charity goat this Christmas? All you’ve ever wanted to know about CAFOD World Gifts”

“I want to be an engineer so that I can rebuild Syria”

Presenter and reporter Julie Etchingham travelled to Lebanon to see the work of CAFOD partner Caritas Lebanon. 

Thursday morning and we’re up before dawn to take the winding road to Qartaba, nestling in Mount Lebanon.

A beautiful morning in Qartaba.
A beautiful morning in Qartaba.

It’s a beautiful clear day as the sun comes up and we arrive at the home of a family of six refugees from Syria.

They’re living in a couple of rooms in a house which is still being built – but there’s a stove burning and the four children are happily pouring tea and having breakfast.

And even better – Hussein, 11, Mostafa, 10 and Amar who’s 6 are just about to put on their school uniforms.

Help a refugee child. This charity gift will give much-needed emotional and educational support to children who have fled the violent trauma of war.

Continue reading ““I want to be an engineer so that I can rebuild Syria””

Future? What do you mean by future?

Presenter and reporter Julie Etchingham travelled to Lebanon to see the work of CAFOD partner Caritas Lebanon. 

It is Wednesday afternoon and we’re sitting on the floor of a shack covered in tarpaulin with eight year old Karim, where he’s been living with his family since fleeing Syria.

Karim picking potatoes.
Karim picking potatoes.

He was up at 6am this morning picking potatoes in the neighbouring field to bring in a few dollars a week for his family. He is a strikingly handsome young boy – bright eyed and smart – and he’s sick of having to work.

Help a refugee child Continue reading “Future? What do you mean by future?”

10 simple, kind ideas on the International Day of Kindness

When were you last kind to someone? Did you make a loved one breakfast this morning or give your colleague a cheery greeting when you arrived at work?

Therese, who works in our fundraising team at CAFOD has been reflecting on kindness and how to spread more of it through out the world.

“On the international day of kindness, here are 10 simple ideas for you to carry out, to put some more kindness back into the world:

CAFOD World Gifts are kindness in action

Continue reading “10 simple, kind ideas on the International Day of Kindness”

The Child Breadwinners of Bekaa

Presenter and reporter Julie Etchingham travelled to Lebanon to see the work of CAFOD partner Caritas Lebanon. 

The brothers working at the bakery.
The brothers working at the bakery.

In a side road in a small town in the Bekaa Valley Yazan and Majed are hard at work. They are brothers aged 10 and 11. Their day started in darkness, getting up at 4am they were a bit scared to be going out before dawn, to get to their jobs in a local bakery.

The tiny bakery turns out flatbreads for local restaurants. The boys work alongside two grown men. The adults receive $40 (£30) a day. The boys get $3 (£2.30) a day between them. But these meagre earnings are vital for their family to survive after fleeing the war in Syria.

Donate to CAFOD’s Syria Crisis Appeal. Continue reading “The Child Breadwinners of Bekaa”

Gospel Reflection: What can we offer to others?

This reflection and prayer were written by Joy Wanless from Our Lady of Grace parish, Manchester.

Based on the gospel for Sunday 11 November – Mark 12:38-44

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“But she in her poverty has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.”

It’s easy to judge by our own standards, to sometimes forget that all good gifts come from God. Some have gifts to offer to foodbanks. Some are dependent on food banks for the basics to feed their families. There are those who are permanently hungry who Jesus watches just as closely.

Margaret in Batiama, Sierra Leone, experiences the “hungry season”, while they wait for the harvest.

Margaret was struggling, but her life was changed with a small loan from CAFOD which enabled her to buy supplies and set up a shop in her home.

She received training on how to make her business a success. Margaret now earns enough to support her children. She can pass on the gift of the loan and another family’s lives have been changed.

Change a life with the gift of a small loan

She says, “I want to thank CAFOD for appreciating women – especially widowed women fending for themselves.”

What loan can we offer to others?  Prayer, friendship, time, money, comforts? What do we have to put in the offering?

What can we give which, like the widow’s mite, isn’t just in excess of our needs but is a genuine gift from the heart?

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Prayer

Dear Lord, we thank you for your abundant provisions for our lives. We thank you that you show us the way. You don’t judge. You love.  Let’s put our wealth, a gift from you, in the offering and share your love. Amen.