On 8th June, it was our National Volunteering Day. More than a hundred CAFOD volunteers met in Westminster Cathedral to meet CAFOD’s new director, hear speakers working in El Salvador, Brazil and South Sudan, and participate in a Storytelling workshop. It was an extremely inspiring and engaging day.
CAFOD’s New Director
Christine Allen took up her post as CAFOD’s new director in Spring 2019. She has worked for CAFOD for over 30 years, first working as a Campaigns Co-ordinator. Christine says “Working for CAFOD as a young campaigner, I discovered Catholic Social Teaching and was hugely inspired and influenced by a Church that took action for peace and justice.”
Christine reminded us that the smallest efforts, when joined with those of others, can have amazing results and spoke of the importance of CAFOD’s 6000+ volunteers in ensuring no-one is denied the help and love they need.
Christine also spoke about meeting a priest from Sri Lanka when she went to Rome recently, who was extremely grateful for the great support his people received from CAFOD following the recent bomb attacks.
Dragon’s Den: Which Project Would You Support?
Next, we were excited to hear three International Speakers pitch their projects in a Dragon’s Den style way. The audience then decided which two they would support. For Campaigns Co-ordinator, Miriam McEneaney, this was the highlight of the day. “As well as being a bit of fun”, she says “it highlighted a very serious message – sometimes CAFOD cannot reach out to everyone and, therefore, has to make heart breaking decisions. I think everyone felt motivated to try to change this situation – I know I did!”
First, Clare Dixon pitched her project in El Salvador. She works near the border of Honduras, in a remote mountain district. She helps to rehabilitate victims of war, supplies healthcare, and works to reconnect children who were abducted during the civil war.
Gisele Henrique works to secure land-rights for the indigenous people of Roraima, Brazil as well as establishing community-run enterprises to transform people’s livelihoods.
John Birchenough works to support the 850,000 refugees on the Southern Border of Sudan, by building latrines and promoting hygiene to minimise malaria outbreaks.
All three projects are obviously so important and vitally needed. It was so difficult to decide which two we would support. Community Participation Co-ordinator Margaret said “I found the exercise to decide which project not to support really interesting because it made me appreciate how difficult for the decision makers it is to reject one of the projects because they were each very worthy”. However, this is the reality CAFOD workers face, as currently, CAFOD only has funds to be able to answer 2/3 cries for help.
Before finishing with a final reflection, we told each other why we started volunteering for CAFOD. Whilst listening to each other, we focused on how each story was told, and how it made us feel. We then used this to reflect on some of CAFOD’s stories of overseas work and considered how we can share these stories in order to inspire people to support those most in need. Volunteer Margaret “found it very humbling to see all the volunteers who came and to consider them giving up their time to support CAFOD’s work”.
Why not volunteer?
Volunteers are so vital to the amazing work that CAFOD does to support those most in need around the world. We need your help!
There are so many ways you could volunteer, such as volunteering in parishes, schools, campaigning, corresponding with MPs working in the office and writing prayers. For further information look on our website in the volunteering section.