Ciara Hogan arriving in El Salvador

CAFOD Step into the Gap volunteer Ciara Hogan shares her experiences of arriving in El Salvador, meeting CAFOD’s partners and seeing inspiring, creative projects.

Ciara Hogan
Ciara Hogan is currently in El Salvador

Our first few days in Central America have been absolutely incredible. In the short time we’ve been here we have already experienced so many different people and places, each giving us so much to think about and reflect on.

One of those experiences was our visit to La Palma, a town in the mountains of El Salvador bordering Honduras. This was our first visit to a family since we arrived.

Prior to this visit we had been meeting partners in their offices so I was looking forward to seeing a family in their own home and hearing their stories. La Palma is a town famous for its crafts.

It is the home of El Salvador’s unique brightly coloured art that has become so famous around the world because of the Romero Cross. The streets are covered in bright paintings- even the lampposts are covered in art!

We were travelling to La Palma to meet Lazaro, an artist who creates all of the Romero crosses that are sold by CAFOD.

He oversees the production of each cross, from the carpentry to the varnishing done by his own grown-up daughters. I was particularly excited about this meeting as the cross that I have had since I was young, and that has travelled with me to university and now to the Briars is a Romero cross that was made in El Salvador.

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News from out Step into the Gap volunteers, Ciara & Kayleigh

Maggie Mairura  Community Participation Coordinator for CAFOD in Nottingham Diocese signposting to updates from our ‘Gappers’!………..

Step into the Gap, CAFOD’s gap year programme, is an opportunity for young people to volunteer in the UK, gain experience, develop leadership skills and visit CAFOD partners and the communities we work with.


Kayleigh, Ciara and Maggie at the Briars September 2017 

So for us here in Nottingham Diocese that means we benefit as for the last few years we have had 2 ‘Gappers’ based at the Briars Retreat Centre in Crich.

Find out more and apply here for this September


So Ciara, following in Bishop Patrick’s recent footsteps is visiting our partners in El Salvador and Nicaragua, whilst Kayleigh, is in Sierra Leone.


Making Romero Crosses 

They are keeping in touch via blogs and instagram and tweets etc etc!  So here are some links to recent updates from them both……….. enjoy!

El Salvador

Sierra Leone


CAFOD group in Eastwood celebrates 20 years!

Maggie Mairura, Community Participation Coordinator for CAFOD in Nottingham diocese writes……..

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of joining members of the CAFOD group of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire for their annual group dinner.  As well as buying the ingredients and cooking the food, they then donate money to CAFOD for the privilege of eating it! This is just one of many fundraising events they organise annually and they organise many events that involve the whole parish; creating opportunities to donate, campaign and pray, they also provide a valuable service to the parish, opportunities to socialise together.


Our Lady of Good Counsel, Eastwood – with some of the founding and current members of the CAFOD Group

Last evening was an opportunity for the group to socialise, as one of the founding mothers, Kath Butler, told me “we see it very much as a friendship group too and when  Liz Doona and I started it 20 years ago our children were older and we had more time to offer and so the CAFOD group began”   And now when parish events take place both her children and granchildren help with putting out the tables and chairs!

How can you volunteer with CAFOD?

Group members host garden parties, organise Fast Day lunches after Mass, hold quiz and musical evenings to name but a few.

The parish is also part of the CAFOD Connect2 scheme and have links with our partners in Ethiopia.  Last year Sophie Bray, a former Step into the Gap volunteer visited the parish for the Lent Lunch to tell them about her visit to Ethiopia.

Find out more about our Gap Year here

maria eastwood

Maria and one of her floral displays 

More recently Maria Kirk put on a floral display at Eastwood Town Council offices with all donations going to the Connect2 scheme.

As we talked and I learnt more about the many diverse talents of the group members (Gordon and Angela both contribute to Radio Nottingham’s Thought for the Day) we discussed the challenges of recruiting new members to continue the legacy another 20 years! So if you are reading this and live in Eastwood, go and introduce yourself to one of the group!

I have returned the invitation and the group will soon be visiting the Volunteer Centre and I also suggested that, as now they are in their next decade, they should visit Romero House in London.

If you want to know about CAFOD in Nottingham Diocese or you want to share what you, your school, your parish is doing, please do get in touch.