Hope for a better World

In this first week of Advent we often reflect on the theme of hope as we look ahead with joyful expectation to the celebration of Christ’s birth. It is has been hard at times over the past year to feel hope and joy, but on 14th November 2020, CAFOD organised an online conference which invited participants to put their faith into action and focused on How to Build a Better World after the Pandemic. It was an event centered on Hope.  

Liam Finn explored Pope Francis’s new encyclical Fratelli Tutti

The day flowed from insights by the practical theologian Sam Ewell to reports from climate campaigners from around the world; Liam Finn explained and explored Pope Francis’s new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti; CAFOD’s Director of Advocacy Neil Thorns told us about the crucial global talks the UK is hosting next year, and ways in which CAFOD volunteers can influence the outcomes.

Catch up on recorded session from the day

Hope inspires action

Throughout the day were many opportunities to share with others and gain new ideas and fresh motivation to be a force for change in the world

Barbara Ring, CAFOD campaigner and Speaker from Hartley said: “I was inspired by the input at the meeting – so much so that I immediately contacted our newly formed Parish Council and Fr Patrick with the information about Christmas Cards for the Defenders – Fr Patrick sent a very enthusiastic response and the information is going out with the newsletter asap…

Barbara Ring from Hartley enjoying the gift of Creation in Lyme Park

Join Barbara in writing a message to someone brave

“I’ve also suggested we go back to Living More Simply. There were so many great ideas, especially from Sam – I’m hoping we can team up with our school and work on some of the ecological stuff building on what the pupils are already doing.  Could we turn the entire presbytery garden into a wildlife haven or a vegetable patch? My brain is working overtime I’m afraid …..”

Get ideas for how you can live more simply and care for the environment

Gillie Drinkall, Schools and Campaigns Volunteer in London, took part with her family and they reflected together:

 “One thing that did resonate with me and my family was said by the theologian.  Something along the lines that “experiences don’t lead to transformation but reflections on experiences do”.  It’s really worth trying to find the time to work out what is important, what we can learn.  Even to the teenagers it seemed apparent that one can be happier going for a walk in the park with one likeminded friend than going to all the parties ever.  [My] oldest child even finally admitted that being outside really did improve her mood!”

Maggie Melville is a CAFOD school Volunteer

Join Gillie is prioritising some time for reflection by using our online advent calendar

Maggie Melville a School Volunteer based in Kent was inspired by a project with prisoners: “I liked the idea of a garden using recycled waste, tended by people who are also being recycled after a spell in prison.  I have great difficulty with certain aspects of the notion of prison as it punishes more than the prisoner and affects not only their life chances but those of their dependents.  The promise of growth, productivity, community, value – and not just for the vegetables – really appeals.”

Hope through connection

One of the most uplifting, exciting, and moving aspects of the day was being able to connect with so many different people of different ages and backgrounds in so many places across the UK and world.

Maggie continued: “Most of all I like the fact that by clicking a link we can connect in real time around the world and the exchange of ideas is faster than the speed of light.  Amazing!!!”

“By clicking on a link we can connect with people around the world in real time. ”

Julie Valentine, Parish volunteer Coordinator, from Richmond shared:  “How heartening to see such a large number of attendees – at one stage I think there were almost 240 which was a great turn-out.”  

Dominic Newman, from Mitcham, said : “I also found the energy, the ‘fizz’ of the meeting very stirring. Given the state of the world, and our country, and (in my case) my local area, despondence often seems irresistible, so the other Saturday I was surprised (though I shouldn’t have been!) to find such enthusiasm, such a joyful determination to help our neighbours, wherever they live.” 

Rahel Leul,17 year old, Events Volunteer shared how she appreciated learning from the other participants: “What I enjoyed from the meeting was being able to meet new people and interact with different kinds of people from all around the world. I also liked coming together and educating one another, learning from others and their views.”

Find more opportunities to connect with others through online events

Lets all plant some seeds of hope

Let’s spread Hope with a Christmas message

Have you heard about our Messages to the Brave campaign? On our website you can write a Christmas message of encouragement to some of the Human Rights defenders who we work with. Such an easy way to spread the hope and faith!

5 Minutes With…Becky Such

We caught up with Becky Such, Individual Giving Executive aka World Gifts Coordinator at CAFOD, to find out what World Gifts is all about, what the most popular gifts are and how your giving this Christmas can make a positive impact in someone else’s life.

Becky is coordinator for CAFOD’s virtual gifts scheme for Christmas

What’s your name? Becky Such

What is your role? I’m an Individual Giving Executive with responsibility for World Gifts, although I often call myself World Gifts Coordinator, as that’s a bit simpler

What is World Gifts? (summary of history/background, who it’s for, aims etc)
World Gifts is CAFOD’s virtual giving scheme. Back when it started in 2003, it was one of the first virtual gift schemes out there. We wanted to find a way for people to tangibly engage with our work and support CAFOD around Christmas, and so World Gifts was born. World Gifts is arguably for everyone – mainly individuals buy them as gifts for their loved ones, but schools and parishes do fundraise to either buy one more expensive gift, or lots of less expensive gifts. Although World Gifts is a fun way to support CAFOD, it’s also a great way to hear about different areas of our work. Even people who work at CAFOD say they didn’t realise some of the things we do when they read a World Gifts case study.

Discover World Gift catalogue

World Gifts is a fun way to support CAFOD

What is the best thing about your role?
My role is so varied. From sourcing new gifts and case studies, to coming up with new ways we can improve World Gifts and actually making it happen each year. Hearing how individuals, schools and parishes have all fundraised – it’s really rewarding that way. I think I’m really lucky having the positive examples of our work that make up World Gifts, the new visuals this year have also been really fun to see and develop with the illustrator! Plus, a big focus for World Gifts is Christmas, and I really love the season, so that’s a win-win really.

Teach Someone to read with World Gifts

What are the most popular World Gifts and why?
The most popular gifts change a little each year, but some of the firm favourites are Teach someone to read, Water for a family and Happy queen bee. The Keep clean kit, new this year, is also proving very popular. I think these gifts are well-liked because they’re easy to understand. Here in the UK we can take for granted having the opportunity to learn to read, or access to clean running water, but everyone can appreciate how vital these are. With the Happy queen bee gift I think partly it’s because it’s our bargain gift, at just £4, but also because everyone loves bees!

Keeping Clean Kit World Gifts

How has the pandemic affected World Gifts this year?
I think people are turning to World Gifts more than they normally would. Perhaps because most of us can’t go out shopping at the moment. Or because many of us have reassessed what’s important to us this year, so a charity gift seems the best thing to give. The website has certainly seen a lot more orders coming through as people turn more and more to online ways to support CAFOD.

From a group fundraising perspective, I think it has been really challenging. We normally send out batches of World Gifts catalogues to parishes all over England and Wales, but with lockdown restrictions, we’ve had to postpone that in England. But I have heard about schools and parishes still managing to fundraise, sometimes converting their usual activities into virtual ones. People have really used their imagination, which is brilliant. And I know people see World Gifts as quite an uplifting thing to engage with at this difficult time.

What have been the highlights for World Gifts this year?
Launching our new look has been a real highlight. Not only was this an immense achievement for everyone involved considering the extra challenges of working remotely, but we’ve also had really positive feedback.

Launching our “Post direct” option on the website. This allows people to provide us with a personalised message which we will print in their card and post directly to their loved one. In a year where there is so much uncertainty around who we will be able to see, I really hope that this option helps people to feel a bit more connected.

Happy Queen Bee Gifts costs only £4

How can we get involved?
Buy a World Gift! You can see the full range at cafod.org.uk/worldgifts or you can order via the catalogue if you’ve got your hands on one of those. Already done that? You could see if anyone in your parish or school wants to fundraise for World Gifts. Or you could just spread the word, whether on social media, in your parish bulletin or just chatting to your friends. We know the more people who hear about World Gifts, the better! I also know that right now is a really hard time financially for a lot of people. World Gifts start from just £4, but they’re also available all year round. So if you can’t buy a World Gift now, you can always do it for another occasion.

If you’d like more information on how to send a World Gift this Christmas, click here.

You can read our official World Gifts 2020 press release here.

What’s next after Harvest? Julie is sharing her ideas.

Julie Valentine is a parish Volunteer at Our Lady Queen of Peace in East Sheen. She reflects on her experience of this Harvest Family Fast Day and what is coming up next for us all. 

Harvest in a Nut shell

Julie Valentine from East Sheen shares her experience on Harvest Fast Day in her parish

What was Harvest like this year? I heard that some parishes like St James the Great in Petts Wood achieved very substantial collections for Harvest and got a good response from their parishioners to donate via their mobile phones.  Or other parishes like Our Lady of the Rosary in Sidcup managed to advertise successfully in the parish newsletter and social media.  A few parishes like St Vincent de Paul, Battersea, were even brave enough to try the cashless payment with ordering some devices from CAFOD.  These examples were very uplifting and show the wonderful commitment of my fellow volunteers and their parish communities.

For me though, Harvest Fast Day was disappointing and flat.  With the church still not open for Sunday Mass, there were no posters, no inspiring talk at the Masses, no satisfaction of watching the pile of envelopes mount up in the collection basket.  Our priest kindly circulated the CAFOD Newsletter and did his best to remind parishioners during the Zoom Mass and, to me, it all passed with scarcely a ripple …

So here we go again, I thought.  Back into relative lockdown and now also face the prospect of a “non-Christmas”.  How about all those people that CAFOD works with, for whom every year is probably a “non-Christmas”?  They are still battling their own problems, their own helplessness, their own hopelessness… But does it have to be like that?  “No one beyond reach” is our motto.  Time to pull up my socks and think creatively about how I can continue to do even a tiny bit for CAFOD!  In my country, Jamaica, we have a saying “one-one coco fill basket” (Coco is a small root vegetable).  I must try to contribute my coco. 

What’s next after Harvest?

First stop : the CAFOD Website

First stop, the CAFOD website.  What are other people doing?  Wonderful things – I saw the runners in the marathon and heard of parishes raising thousands of pounds with sponsored runs and walks.  That’s one option, maybe not for me though but my grand children!  https://cafod.org.uk/Fundraise/A-Z-of-fundraising-ideas

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