The atmosphere was wonderful in the Pavilion at Romero House last Wednesday (27th June) when I attended an event to thank CAFOD Volunteers for 50 years of their fantastic hard work and support.
We had the privilege of meeting and hearing from two of our overseas Partners. Sister Pascalina Mambwe, a Franciscan Sister who coordinates the HIV and AIDS programme in Ndola Diocese in Northern Zambia, spoke passionately about the work the Sisters are doing with CAFOD, She said:
“With CAFOD’s help, we are working to empower women and train them to provide for themselves without having to resort to such things as prostitution. We have set up special centres and support groups for people with HIV and AIDS to learn how to live and flourish with it and not to spread it to others. We are also trying to teach couples who want to marry or live together to get tested for the virus first, something which is a taboo in my country.
I am proudly standing here to tell you of the impact your contributions to CAFOD are having on people living with HIV . You don’t know how much you are doing for vulnerable people in Zambia.”
Afterwards Father Andreu Oliva SJ, who was the former Head of the Jesuit Development Services in El Salvador, spoke about his experience of working in partnership with CAFOD, he said:
“Certainly for us it is impossible to think of international cooperation without CAFOD. And in CAFOD we have a sister organisation with whom we work, hand in hand, to promote justice and development in Central America.”
Father Andreu went on to reflect on some of the experiences that have particularly stayed with him. He told the moving story of a housing project he had coordinated :
“Between 2002 and 2004, I coordinated a CAFOD-funded housing programme in El Salvador that benefited more than 4,000 families. People had lost their houses in the earthquakes and never thought they would have a dignified and safe house again….
…When they received the keys to their finished house, with title deed that said it was theirs, you can imagine how happy they were. Many people did not dare to live in their house at first, even though they had built it themselves, on their own land, because it seemed to them incredible that they could have a house like that. In truth, it is very difficult to describe how happy they were at being part of that project, a project which gave them so much strength and resolved such a big need.”
During the time for questions that followed the speeches, it was great to hear the Volunteers respond by expressing their gratitude for the amazing work that Father Andreu and Sister Pascalina do. Many of the Volunteers told me how humbled and inspired they were by the speeches.
To end the event we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to CAFOD as Father Andreu and Sister Pascalina cut a special thank you cake, of which we all enjoyed a piece!
(Blog post written by Sarah Westrap CAFOD Southwark)