Step into the Gap volunteer Rod is travelling to meet our partners in Cambodia

Rod talks about his upcoming visit to Cambodia

Rod Howlett is taking part in the Step into the Gap programme. In a few weeks, he will travel to Cambodia to meet local communities who have been helped by the fundraising and campaigning of CAFOD’s supporters in England and Wales. He tells us about his year so far and his preparation and expectations for visiting Cambodia.


As I sit in a cold post-Christmas front room in Nottinghamshire, I feel a long way away from Cambodia, in the middle of the dry season, where I will be in a few weeks.

Since September, I have volunteering at the Briars Catholic Youth Retreat Centre in Crich Derbyshire. Whilst there, I have been promoting the work of CAFOD to the various school groups that come to the Briars through presentations, games and prayers. In short, anything that engages young people in CAFOD’s work in a way that is accessible but not an oversimplification.

In particular, I’ve been focusing on the refugee crisis and the challenge that climate change presents.  Not only that, for this year’s Harvest Fast Day, I gave a number of presentations to my home Church in Newark about the work that CAFOD does in Bolivia.

The opportunity to raise awareness of, for example, Laudato Si and the work that CAFOD and the Catholic Church is doing to counter climate change, which is still very little known, is a real privilege.

With Laudato Si in mind, a document which focuses on the “cry of the poor and cry of the earth” as two interconnected things, seeing climate change as something which directly effects the poorest hardest, some of the projects I will be visiting in Cambodia become especially relevant.


Young people at the Briars pray and reflect on Laudato Si and CAFOD’s campaign One Climate One World

Both the Village Support Group and Srer Khmer, two projects I will be visiting, place supporting the poorest in communities through, for example, providing clean water, but also doing this in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Even before I have moved from my front room, there are questions already being asked of me from Cambodia.  I’ve just read some of the interviews conducted for part of CAFOD’s “Connect 2” programme in Cambodia. This a programme that connects parishes in England and Wales with communities in countries that CAFOD works, so that they can communicate with each other.

I am so excited that I will be meeting some of the Cambodian people who have been interviewed for this project. Reading their interviews, I am interested to talk about our common experience of education and aspirations for the future.

Taking this back and sharing the stories of the people I meet in Cambodia with the young people who visit the Briars is something that I am absolutely relishing.

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