National Volunteer Week: Connecting the earth as one family

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Jennifer Smith, Parish Group Volunteer at St Joseph’s CAFOD group in Bromley, reflects on her time as a CAFOD volunteer:

My name is Jennifer Smith and I have been a member of St Josephs, CAFOD group in Bromley for about 8 years. I feel that our faith calls us to live on this earth as one family – and yet we don’t.

While investigating charities that would best support the ideal to strive for one world, CAFOD appeared the logical choice. The catholic church is already a global institution so all the infrastructure of supporting people across the world seemed to make sense if it could be done through the church – no need to create a massive administrative system, new distribution channels or send people across the world – the institution exists so use it to channel the support rather than recreate yet another network. Much more efficient! But it was very important for me to check that any aid was given regardless of gender or religion.

I have been secretary of the group for a lot of that time and at the moment I am holding a joint role as chair. We were led previously by the phenomena that was Frank O’Brien – he did so much!! Since his passing the group has been attempting to reorganise but the process is fluid.

It is a wonderful experience meeting with other people – all so different – who care so much about the same things as yourself. The range of ages and experiences makes for good conversations and interesting ideas and the different skills have enabled us to successfully organise a variety of events.

As always we would really welcome more members and fresh input and ideas. Unfortunately one of the problems we face, that I think is so common amongst all voluntary organisations these days, is that all the group members are very stretched and committed with either other church groups, work or domestic responsibilities. However we really do try to make a success of the events that we organise.

We have tried to do things well rather than do things often – quite important when your numbers are small and everyone is so busy.

St Joseph’s School choir singing St Joseph’s Church at a CAFOD group fundraiser.

St Joseph’s School choir singing at a St Joseph’s Church CAFOD group fundraiser.

Our regular events include being on the after church coffee rota, a plant sale in May and co-ordinating the local primary school to sing carols for us. In the past we also had an annual Harvest fair. We do try and have one larger scale fundraising event a year. These have included quiz nights, jumble sales, a salsa evening, a picture sale and a book fair. These take quite a lot of organising – they can be very stressful in the run up to them – but as a group we always end up saying “what an enjoyable event!!”

Within the parish we have some profile – part of a notice board, we speak at the fast days and occasionally we have been invited to speak to other groups such as Journey in Faith. However we are aware that this is an area we could develop.

I think the CAFOD group I am privileged to be a part of is made up of such wonderful people that the blessings their friendship and support give me is high reward for the volunteering.

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