“For I was hungry and you gave me to eat…in so far as you did this to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:35
Last week, I did a CAFOD workshop in a primary school. I used the Food for Reflection cards which share stories of our global family: women like Dorcas who lives with her seven children and one grandson in a village in Northern Kenya. There is a lovely picture of her working on her vegetable plot. She is a woman of dignity and deep faith who wants to share what she has, despite the hardships she faces in her own life. Her husband died in an attack when their cows and goats were stolen by another tribe. They were too frightened to stay and had to flee their home. For many years, they relied on food aid. But they were desperately hungry.
With CAFOD’s help, Dorcas started growing her own food. The family received seeds, training and help ploughing the hard earth with a tractor. A good harvest yields enough to feed the family and some can be sold for school fees. Dorcas shares what she has with those in greater need.
We began day 3 with a big bowl of porridge oats and had rice again for lunch and supper with left over veg and steamed cabbage. I can’t blame the meagre budget on my poor culinary skills. Simon is the better cook. I let the rice over boil and it went beyond sticky to soggy. Should I throw it out and start again like they do on The Great British Bake Off? Or, could I rescue it in some way without breaking the rules?
I am determined that we will not throw any food away no matter what! So I cheated and stole things from our cupboard: a drop of cooking oil, and a few drops of soy sauce to stir-fry the rice and veg. I used some of the rice to make a pudding so cheated again using a pinch of nutmeg and a few raisins just to make it edible.
Is this the slippery slope? NO! We will pay for it out of our contingency money. Nine pence might not cover it. We are in debt and will have to save some of Tuesday’s money to pay back what we owe.
We were tempted to buy ourselves a cup of coffee but resisted. Visitors have accepted water but it still feels like poor hospitality when it shouldn’t. Water is good for us but the desire for a hot cuppa is strong.
The CAFOD quiz asks: How much does it cost to train a small scale farmer giving them the skills they need to produce enough crops to feed themselves and sell at market?
It costs £125 to make a big difference. Greater self-sufficiency is a vital lifeline. CAFOD has joined with 100 major charities to tackle the hunger trap. The Enough Food for Everyone IF …..campaign challenges David Cameron, and world leaders to tackle 4 big ‘IF’s to make 2013 the year when we begin to end the global hunger crisis. One big ‘IF’ is…. if enough aid is given to stop children dying from hunger, and help the poorest people feed themselves through investment in small farmers.
When I was in Ethiopia with CAFOD in 2006, I worked with homeless and vulnerable young people. Hadash and Sr Fisseha were two remarkable women, like Dorcas, who made a deep and lasting impression on me. The first time I met them was at the project base, when they were preparing a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. This is my idea of coffee heaven. As you can see in the picture, it’s a far cry from the coffee-to-go culture.
The Abba Gebremichael project is like a drop-in-centre and place of safety. In 2006, it was in a small rented compound with a few rooms and a yard. Over two hundred children access the base before or after school and during school holidays.
Sr Fisseha ran the project. She knew every one of the children, and the harsh circumstances of their daily lives. She peristed in finding school places for them in the face of prejudice, and doubt, that a homeless child would ever make good use of a place at school. She empowered the young people to play a big part in running the centre. She fought for each of them as if they were her own.
Sr Fisseha, worked with the staff and children to put on a big celebration at Easter and Christmas. The doors were open to the homeless, any family, local guests and key members of the community so they could hear about the amazing progress the children were making at school and see for themselves what capable, creative and determined young people they were becoming.
I shared a Christmas celebration with the community in 2009. What a party, what a feast! Buckets of potatoes were peeled, tomatoes washed and chopped, dozens of onions and heads of cabbage. Some of the grandmas and mums had been paid to make injeera, a bread pancake that forms the base for every meal. Added to this, was fresh roasted goat that would have been walking round the yard the day before. The meat would be chopped and mixed with a rich spicy sauce. The local market was just up the road and buzzing with people buying veg, spices and flour for Christmas meals. Sr Fisseha negotiated her way round with her young helpers who knew every inch of the town and where to get the best bargains. There is fertile land and a great variety of produce but the majority of people don’t have land to grow food or money to buy it.
At Christmas and Easter families go in to debt to buy new clothes and put a special meal on the table. That is why Sr Fisseha opened the centre on feast days, to help people share in the Lord’s banquet.
The young people at the project existed most days on a hot cup of tea and two nutritious biscuits. Many saved one biscuit for someone else in need. On my first visit in 2006, Hadash provided the hot drinks and dished out the biscuits as if she were serving royalty. Sustaining young lives and helping them find the confidence to thrive. She became their surrogate mum and they held her in high regard. She was a humble woman, with nothing of her own, who worked as a volunteer until she died of ill health in 2007. Sr Fisseha died last year. Their empowering work continues and they have a new base and funding to offer one meal a day and that has a really positive impact on their regular attendance at school and ability to learn and succeed.
We have a jabeena, an Ethiopian clay coffee pot, that takes pride of place in our house.
An Oromo coffee prayer is: Mana janbana abate naga hadabatu – where there is coffee let there be peace and prosperity.
Enjoy your coffee break today.
CAFOD supporter and retired teacher Anna Bourke lives in Derby with her husband Simon. For this week, they’ll both be living on £1 a day, in solidarity with the world’s poorest people.