Thank you for your Lenten fundraising

Many Lenten lunches and Lent Fast Day fundraising have taken place in the Nottingham Diocese in aid of CAFOD.

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Florence was the symbol of CAFOD’s Lent appeal

With Lent over, we would like to express our gratitude to all schools and parishes who took part in raising money this year and helped turn a little fish into a big fish.

Without your help, the work of CAFOD would not be possible.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Step into the Gap volunteer Sophie Bray is travelling to meet our partners in Ethiopia

Sophie speaks about her upcoming trip to Ethiopia

Sophie Bray, is taking part in the Step into the Gap programme. In a few weeks, she will travel to Ethiopia to meet local communities supported by CAFOD’s partner projects. She tells us about volunteering in Nottingham and her preparation for visiting Ethiopia.

meVolunteering with CAFOD for the past six months has provided me with the most enriching experiences.

It has given me the opportunity to work with approximately 1,000 young people from across the Nottingham diocese; an immense amount of young people who have continued to inspire, motivate and encourage me in all aspects of my work.

Through CAFOD’s Step into the Gap scheme, I have been able to engage young people in conversations about social justice issues such as climate change and the refugee crisis, conversations they may never have had otherwise.

Every week young people on retreat at the Briars have been challenged by Pope Francis’ mission to listen to the cry of the earth and to the cry of the poor. They have been active in this challenge by participating in several thought-provoking simulation games where they are able to experience a small fraction of what living with these realities is like. Groups have also been involved in debates through which they question their own responsibility as a community and how they can act.

As well as this, young people have been creating gifts of hope and love with CAFOD’s Green Hearts campaign to share with those at home and abroad, inspired by CAFOD’s work and the words of Nelson Mandela: “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation! Let your greatness blossom!”

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Young people at The Briars reflect on scripture and CAFOD’s campaign work

The next step in my gap year journey, however, proves to be the most exciting. CAFOD has given me and three other “Gappers” the life-changing opportunity to travel to Ethiopia. On 24 January, we will be flying out to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, to visit CAFOD partners overseas and see first-hand the amazing development work which they do there.

While in Ethiopia we will stay with the Daughters of Charity and visit project activities. I am particularly excited to get to work with the street children that the Daughters of Charity work with as part of one of their projects.

I hope to be able to get involved with some of their music and art classes and learn about the Ethiopian culture as well as exchanging some of our own. I am thrilled to be able to have the chance to share this creativity in such a positive and affirming way!

A project which I hope will impact and inspire me is the Daughters of Charity’s work in the Tigray province, where they provide housing support for vulnerable women. This is a scheme which I feel will hits close to home and inspire my passion for gender equality and highlight its importance. The Daughters also provide care and support for people living with HIV and AIDS , which is another project which I am stirred by. I hope this will encourage me in my own volunteering and I cannot wait to learn more about how they provide this kind of support to some of the most vulnerable communities.

The enthusiasm and support I have encountered from the schools and communities across the diocese have been such an energising journey for me and one I cannot wait to take with me overseas!

I hope that I can bring this experience back to the UK and share some of the inspiring stories and lives of those who have so selflessly dedicated themselves to supporting the marginalised in society.