The History of Family Fast Day

Ever wondered how CAFOD started? In fact, it all began five decades ago, with a group of Catholic women and a determination to reach those most in need. 

A call to action

In 1960, Jacquie Stuyt and Elspeth Orchard heard that children in the Caribbean island of Dominica were starving. They decided to try and raise funds for a mother and baby clinic, which would also provide people with water and teach them how to plant vegetable gardens, in order to help people survive and make a living for themselves.

An inspiring idea


The group of Catholic Women who held the very first Family Fast Day

Jacquie and Elspeth came together with others from the National Board of Catholic Women, the Catholic Women’s League and the Union of Catholic Mothers to organise the first Family Fast Day. On Friday 11th March, they asked everyone in the family to eat a simple, cheap meal and to donate the money saved. They raised the equivalent of £96,000!

To help CAFOD raise money to supply safe water in Uganda this Family Fast Day, have a simple soup lunch at home or in your parish. Click here for a delicious soup recipe. 

Elspeth Orchard said “We weren’t doing anything special, we were just doing what we thought we ought to do, remembering that we are all God’s children.”

The start of CAFOD

The Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales saw the amazing number of donations taking place and they decided to host family fast days regularly. This was the start of CAFOD, and two years later it was registered as an official charity.

This Harvest Family Fast Day

Have you got your simple soup supper planned?

Have you got your simple soup supper planned?

Today, we continue the tradition of Family Fast Days in order to help those most in need around the world. The next Family Fast Day will be taking place this October, where we are raising money to be able to install solar powered water pumps in villages in Uganda. We are encouraging everyone to have a simple meal in their parishes or at home, and to donate the money raised to CAFOD, just like Catholics did all those years ago in 1960.

How you can help

If you are a CAFOD parish volunteer, we are asking you to promote the event in your Parish. We have lots of resources such as videos, posters, envelopes and a speech available online, as well as a how-to guide which can be found here.

If you are not a Parish volunteer, see if your Parish volunteer needs help, perhaps collecting envelopes or talking at Mass. Also please still spread the word by talking to your family and friends about the event, and perhaps you could even plan a group soup lunch! There is a step-by-step guide to planning a Family Fast Day event here.

Good luck with your preparations, and if you need any help or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the CAFOD Southwark Office on 02033 49 1947








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