My CAFOD story: Catherine

Over the next few months, we’re going to be sharing our stories of how and why we are involved with CAFOD. If you fancy contributing yours, drop us a line – we’d love to hear about it. This week Catherine, current social media volunteer at the Southwark office, is sharing hers.

Catherine’s CAFOD Story

My CAFOD story started during my time in Sixth Form at school, when I was lucky enough to spend a day gaining work experience at the (then) central CAFOD offices in Brixton. I wanted to find out more about working in the charity sector, and was warmly welcomed into the office to spend a day helping with research, sitting in on and contributing to a meeting, and chatting to the Youth Resources team about what working in a charitable organisation, like CAFOD, was all about. One of the projects I got involved with on the day was planning ideas for children’s activities at The Wave climate march, and so following that I signed up to help volunteer with some friends on the day of the march, joining the CAFOD team again shortly after, for a very fun day of face painting at Westminster Central Hall (and marching!).

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‘What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!’

After these two great experiences, I was presented with a third – and very exciting – opportunity. As I had been involved with some different elements of the 2009 Climate Justice campaign, I was invited to go along to the hand-in of campaign letters to Number 10 Downing Street. We took 55,000 letters, scribed by the impassioned public, and passed them into Number 10 ready for when Gordon Brown went to Copenhagen for 2009 Climate Summit. As a fresh-faced seventeen-year-old, a newbie to the exciting world of charity and social justice, I was VERY excited – not only about going along, but by the magnitude of force that the campaign had raised.

Our second attempt, after accidentally spelling out 'OOO55' - not quite as effective!

Our second attempt, after accidentally spelling out ‘OOO55’ – not quite as effective…

At some point between my first day of work experience and the hand-in, I became involved with the CAFOD ‘Give It Up for Lent’ Youtube campaign. This involved picking something to give up over the Lent period – I plumped for chocolate – and being filmed talking about why I was getting involved. The concept behind my giving-up was that I was ‘turning chocolate into bees’, raising money the help fund bee-keeping training in Mozambique, as part of a honey production group CAFOD partners had set up to help families struggling to find jobs.

After a period of quiet whilst I knuckled down for my last term of secondary school (without the aid of chocolate during the revision period, of course!) I was invited, and felt very privileged, to go along as part of a youth team to the Papal Visit in September 2010. Before the day of the visit itself, young CAFOD volunteers and supporters from around the country were brought together to discuss what they did, and what the Papal Visit meant to them. We also had a tour of the new and wonderfully environmentally-friendly offices. The day of the visit itself was a brilliant experience, which I blogged about here.

Just before the Papal Visit, I had attended a Supporters Day beside these great new offices. I heard Chris Bain talk and, as ever, was so impressed with CAFOD and the opportunities for supporters and volunteers to touch base with the organisation, offer input and hear about all of the fantastic work being done. It was at this session that I met Jim Simmons and Christine Byrant, who were, at the time, working in the CAFOD Southwark office and based in a building which, I realised, was only ten minutes away from my house!

At this point I was just starting my gap year before University, so with some free time I began volunteering regularly at the Southwark office on the social media side of things – popping in most weeks but also working from home when my work-hours meant that I couldn’t. Half-way through my year I went off to Italy to study for three months, but due to the wonders of the Internet I was able to keep in touch and still contribute to the Facebook and Twitter pages from time to time. Working remotely became the norm, and I was able to stay involved even as I moved to Southampton to start University the following September.

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#awesomeworkmates

These days I contribute mainly to the blog, as part of a growing social media team at the Southwark office. I can’t quite believe that it has been five years since I first ventured to the CAFOD offices on my first-ever solo journey to London, but it has been an awesome five years and I owe CAFOD a huge amount for all of the wonderful experiences and opportunities I have gained through my involvement! One of the wonderful things about volunteering with CAFOD has been the flexibility and the way in which it has worked into my life in different ways; for a while I would go to the V Festival every year, so in 2011 I caught up with our neighbours, CAFOD Brentwood, who were there spreading the Don’t Drop the Ball campaign, and did an interview for the Southwark blog. This year at University I have been a Campaigns Officer for a society called the Southampton Hub, part of a national charity called Student Hubs, and before starting my role I was able to go along to a special Campaigns Training day which was hosted by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, of which CAFOD is part. I love working with the Southwark team, including Eileen and Sarah who run the office now, and the other volunteers, and I feel privileged to be part of something so brilliant. My current favourite thing is ‘Sarah’s Selfies’ on Wednesday – which (as you can see above) Eileen, fellow volunteer Jessica and I invaded last week when we had a catch-up!

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