Today is Nelson Mandela Day. In 2005 at the ‘Make Poverty History’ march, Nelson Mandela called young people to be part of a ‘great generation’ to work to eliminate world poverty. Francis Hillen reflects on what being part of the ‘great generation’ means to him.
Francis is a youth worker at the Kenelm Youth Trustin Birmingham Archdiocese where he supports young people on their faith journey through retreats and outreach work. He’s the CAFOD ambassador on the team there, championing the inclusion of global justice in the programmes.
“Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” Nelson Mandela
When I think of this quote I think of the power we all have to make a difference or a change. Nelson Mandela is a great example of a man who during his lifetime made a remarkable positive change.
During Mandela’s lifetime we see how the people of Britain were able come together and campaign against the injustice of apartheid and Mandela’s imprisonment throughout the 80s. This most definitely will have gone some way towards his freedom and subsequent election as President of South Africa. For example the song ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ was written by a group of lads from Coventry, it later became an anthem used by the movement.
In today’s world there are many people who lack freedom and through my work with Kenelm Youth Trust as a gap year volunteer, and as a CAFOD Ambassador, I’ve seen the yearning of young people to make a difference. Children I’ve worked with have written truly sincere messages of hope for refugees and teenagers have offered words of solidarity.
Flavia has been volunteering for CAFOD this year as part of the Young Leadership Programme. She’s had a busy year of fundraising, campaigning and raising awareness in her school of CAFOD’s work and social justice issues that are important to her.
Earlier this year Flavia was nominated for the Dorothy Day award, a Million Minutes award for fostering community participation. Here is an extract from her sixth form leavers’ speech, where she reflected on the journey she’s had in college and with CAFOD over the past twelve months.
My journey began last year when I went on a climate change rally to lobby MPs. At first I wasn’t very interested in the topic, however after going on the rally and understanding the impact that our voice has in the world we live in, it really surprised me that I can make a change. It may not be a massive change, but I learnt very quickly throughout this year that it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
Tom Hallsworth works with Animate Youth Ministries in St Helen’s in the Liverpool Archdiocese, leading retreat days with young people aged 11-25 to inspire them to live out the Gospel and social justice. He’s part of the CAFOD ambassador scheme, connecting CAFOD with youth centres across the country.
I’ve been working hard to help young people to understand the refugee crisis, and see what we can do to help. I organised a session in my church where we started with an icebreaker on refugee statistics and also had interactive prayer stations to help people to reflect and think about refugees.
The young people found it really striking that more than half of refugees worldwide are under 18 years old. It got us thinking about what it would be like to be in their shoes. My friend told me she was shocked that so many refugees are young, are unaccompanied children, why can’t they sort it out? It’s such a huge problem, there are just so many.
Then we used CAFOD’s Lampedusa cross action cards to write our own messages of hope for refugees. I’ve collected hundreds of these messages, and the numbers are still growing.
Sarah Burrows from CAFOD’s Youth team describes how young people have been writing messages of love and hope for refugees .
CAFOD ambassadors from retreat and outreach teams have spent the past few months reflecting on the refugee crisis, responding by raising awareness and gathering messages of hope and love for refugees from the young people they work with. At the beginning of March the group came down to London to bring their messages to Parliament, and speak to their MPs about the refugee crisis. The day before, we had the chance to gather together, halfway through Lent, to reflect on the fact that refugees are such a huge part of the Year of Mercy, they are “brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.” (Pope Francis, 2014)
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.
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.
On Thursday 5 and Friday 6 November, the CAFOD Young Climate Bloggers came down to Romero House for two packed days of reflection, workshops and celebration. Their original task was to blog monthly about climate change but they have gone above and beyond this. Since January, between them, they have written over 70 blogs and vlogs, spoken to MPs, raised money for those who are affected by climate change, have thousands of followers on social media accounts and raised awareness about climate change in their own communities and beyond.
Emer, one of our fantastic young climate bloggers from St Erconwald’s parish, has discovered an interesting effect climate change could have on our health.
Most people know the general facts about climate change (that the ice caps are melting due to the warming temperatures) but it turns out that climate change is also acting in ways that aren’t quite so noticeable. This research I found out really surprised me about how climate change is affecting our everyday lives in ways in which we wouldn’t expect.
Hay fever is something that so many people suffer from, and although it is not always serious, it often leads to the unwanted red nose and watery eye look. And studies are now suggesting that climate change could be the cause in an increase in sufferers. This is because with the high carbon dioxide levels and hotter temperatures plants are growing faster, blooming sooner in spring and producing more and more pollen. Which in turn leads to worse hay fever symptoms and a longer hayfever season!
Although hay fever is an uncomfortable experience for lots of us in the UK, it is nothing compared to the huge impact on the health of those already living in poverty. The rise in sea levels leading to flooding, triggered by climate change, is leading to water that is used for washing and drinking becoming contaminated leading to more cases of fatal diseases’ such as typhoid fever.
Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that the raise in temperatures will lead to more cases of malaria. This is a tropical disease which is spread by mosquitos, and because other countries climates are becoming more suitable to the conditions the disease thrives in, more people globally will be at risk of contracting malaria.
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.
Khudayja, A CAFOD Young Leader from Portsmouth Diocese, explains why she is supporting #Muslims4Lent by Cutting it Out with CAFOD and how her Young Leadership group is getting the whole school involved with campaigning and fundraising.
We are a group of Year 12 students studying at sixth form college in Portsmouth Diocese. We believe that we must be the change we wish to see in this world, and this has driven us to become CAFOD Young Leaders. We recognise that the youth of today are the future of tomorrow and therefore it is our duty, as Young Leaders, to make our generation a great one.
It has been a wonderful experience getting to know other Young Leaders from across the Portsmouth Diocese through our training sessions, ones that have been beneficial in personal development as well as real-life leadership applications.
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.