My experience organising the CAFOD Harvest appeal during a global pandemic

Julie Valentine is a Parish Volunteer at Our Lady Queen of Peace in East Sheen in the Mortlake deanery. She is giving her testimonial on why she is organising Harvest Fast Day in her parish.

I have been a CAFOD Volunteer for a number of years, but I am ashamed to say that my efforts are generally confined to arranging the two Fast Day collections and delivering the Fast Day appeal at all our Masses.  Occasionally I have spoken at other churches, and I love attending the always-inspirational Volunteer Days.

I got inspired by CAFOD’s stories

A few weeks ago I listened to the Webinar “CAFOD live: The greatest challenge to achieving sustainable development” and was reminded of why I love CAFOD and why I volunteer with them.  The stories of CAFOD’s work in Yemen, Syria and South Sudan were deeply moving. We heard of the difficulties in Yemen, a country highly dependent on imported food, where the ports have been blockaded for years, and the population suffers

not only the horrors of war but massive malnutrition; Syria, where 1 in every 3 persons is a refugee; South Sudan, torn and brutalised by years of conflict.  No security, no food, no health care.  In all these situations, there is CAFOD, working through its trusted partners, evaluating the local situation, seeing where the real need lies and doing their best to supply vital, practical help.

The question was: What can I do in a time of COVID 19?

What could I do to support them? My church, Our Lady Queen of Peace, has been running Masses through Zoom every day, with a public Mass once a week on Wednesdays.  In “normal times”, the congregation across all the Sunday Masses is about 200, so not huge.  This year, there is no chance of an appeal, very few people are physically in church so putting out posters or envelopes seemed too little to do. 

But, there is our weekly newsletter, which is emailed to all parishioners.  How great would it be if we attached another document, a special CAFOD Newsletter, detailing the many projects on which CAFOD is working, across numerous areas of the world, and reminding people that we are still there, trying to fulfil our motto “No one beyond reach”.  

Check out how CAFOD is rebuilding lives in the fight against Coronavirus

Every day our television brings us horrific stories of starvation in Africa, conflict in the Middle East, incredible hardship in Bangladesh and Latin America.  However much we sympathise and long to help, very few of us can actually do something practical.  I wonder if other Parish Volunteers would also find this a useful means off raising awareness, of reminding people that we sometimes need to raise our eyes to problems beyond our own.

Our priest is extremely supportive of CAFOD. He has put several notices in the Newsletter, reminding parishioners about CAFOD’s activities and need for assistance, but perhaps a separate Newsletter could actually catch people’s attention.  They need reminding of the constant need for prayer, for campaigning, for money.  Following my proposal, Monsignor Saunders has kindly agreed to email this extra information sheet to all the parishioners with the weekly Parish newsletter. To get this extra newsletter for your parish, send an email to cafod@southwark.org.uk

Through CAFOD, each of us is empowered to help make the miracle of the loaves and fishes happen over and over again.

Join CAFOD Fast Day Festival and promote it in your parish

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