Weekend of Action for Lent Family Fast Fast Day start tomorrow.

Svondo, 7 years old, enjoying peanut butter. He is healthy. Thanks to CAFOD's partner who supported his mum, Marian with vegetables seeds and training..

Svondo, 7 years old, enjoying peanut butter. He is healthy. Thanks to CAFOD’s partner who supported his mum, Marian with vegetables seeds and training.

Many thanks in advance to everyone who is going to speak at mass this week-end and next week-end. Thanks for handing out envelops and encourage parishioners to donate to the Lent Family Fast Day appeal . We would like to share with you some thoughts on Fast Days from Gloria Turner an office volunteer for CAFOD in Brentwood diocese.

Having been involved in recent weeks with preparations for the approaching Lent Fast Day  I decided to find out more about why we fast and how Fast Days began.  What I discovered about the First Fast Day is an inspirational story.

Mother and Baby clinic in Dominica 1960

Jacqueline Stuyt and Sr Alicia, original volunteers for fundraising for the mother and baby healthcare clinic in Dominica

Jacqueline Stuyt and Sr Alicia, original volunteers for fundraising for the mother and baby healthcare clinic in Dominica

I was interested to learn that it all began with 2 women, Jacquie Stuyt and Elspeth Orchard, responding to a request from the people of the Caribbean island of Dominica to help raise funds for a mother-and-baby clinic.

They 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 in 1960.

On Friday 11 March 1960 the group of Catholic women asked everyone in the family to make an act of self-denial. They asked children to give up sweets and for their parents to make just one main cheap meal for the family and give the money they saved to feed people who were hungry.

Who would have believed that such a simple idea would have such a huge impact around the world as this remains at the heart of CAFOD Family Fast Days today.

The organisers expected to raise just a few hundred pounds, but the Catholic community responded with amazing generosity, donating more than £6,000 – the equivalent of £96,000 today.  Imagine how thrilled these groups of women must have been with that response!

The group of women who organised the first Family Fast Day in 1960

The group of women who organised the first Family Fast Day in 1960

“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.” Elspeth Orchard

As well as funding the new clinic, the project also helped people to survive and make a living for themselves, including providing water and teaching people how to plant vegetable gardens. This determination to tackle the root causes of poverty and help people fulfil their potential is still at the heart of everything CAFOD does.

CAFOD Family Fast Day has always been as much about prayer as about giving. Elspeth Orchard explained:

“We were very keen that we should do it not just as a giving thing, but as a praying thing. We should really make an effort to remember people, not just by giving them food, but by doing what we could do to support them”

Opening of the centre in 1964

Opening of the centre in 1964

Opening of the centre in 1964

So this amazing story has shown me what can be achieved by a small group of people wanting to help others.  CAFOD has grown from just two women, Jacqui and Elspeth, fundraising by encouraging fasting, to the great charity organisation it is today.

My attitude to fasting is very different now compared to the days when I “gave something up for Lent” when I was growing up.

Fasting allows me to:

  • reflect on how fortunate I am in always having sufficient food
  • be more aware of those who don’t have enough food and to symbolise an act of solidarity
  • slow down my pace of life to spend more time in reflection and prayer
  • remember how fast days began with that small group of women in Dominica

We fast not only to donate money saved to those in need but also to set aside time to pray for them.  It is also a time for reflection of our own lives and lifestyles.

 “While the world around us may have changed, our efforts and values remain the same: to act, through our faith, to transform the lives of those most in need. Poverty is not part of God’s plan – we believe a better world is possible.” Chris Bain, CAFOD’s Director

I did not know how Fast Days began before I started volunteering for CAFOD.  For me, from now on, Fast Days will always bring this great story to mind and I will be much more aware of how small sacrifices from me can help other families to live more fulfilled and sustainable lives.

Lent Family Fast Day briefing from the comfort of your home!

Have you missed one of our Lent Family Fast Day briefing? No worry you can now catch up with a Webinar from the comfort of your own home!

What is a Family fast Day briefing webinar?   

Marian stands proudly with other members of Chinyama community vegetable garden, holding her two-month-old baby girl Talent.

Marian stands proudly with other members of Chinyama community vegetable garden, holding her two-month-old baby girl Talent.

It is briefing conducted over the internet. Chris Driscoll who is based in Brentwood will be the presenter.

This webinar will give you a unique opportunity to hear more about Zimbabwe. You will also hear from Marian and understand her fight against hunger and malnutrition.

When is this happening?

You can choose from the 5 following dates. Just click on the date you want to register:

Wednesday 31 January 2.30pm until 3.30pm 

Wednesday 7 February 2.30pm-3.30pm 

Monday 12 February 2.30pm – 3.30pm

Wednesday 14 February 7.30pm – 8.30pm

Saturday 17 February 11am – 12pm 

What happens when I register?

Upon entering your name and email address, you will instantly receive an email with clear instructions as to how you join the Webinar on the specified day and time slot.  You may either use your computer’s audio or your telephone.  Details on how to use your telephone are included in the email.

What should I do on the day?

Ensure that you are ready to listen to the Webinar at the time and date you have chosen.  To join the Webinar, click on the unique link provided to you in the email that you received after registering and you will be taken to attend it.  After you have done this, sit back and relax while you listen to the Lent Fast Day briefing.

We are looking forward to those briefing.

Respond to malnutrition in Zimbabwe this Lent with Family Fast Day

Marjorie Henry-Lawrence who lives in the diocese of Southwark is one of our office volunteers. She’s shared with us what she has discovered about malnutrition from the CAFOD Lent Fast Day briefing.

Svondo, 7 years old, enjoying peanut butter. He is healthy. Thanks to CAFOD's partner who supported his mum, Marian with vegetables seeds and training..

Svondo, 7 years old, enjoying peanut butter. He is healthy. Thanks to CAFOD’s partner who supported his mum, Marian with vegetables seeds and training.

‘I was dismayed to hear that across the world, malnutrition still kills almost three million children every year! I had absolutely no idea about this.  It is so sad to hear that for children who survive malnutrition, the effects can be long-lasting. Lack of nutritious food can stunt growth and even if children have a good diet in later life, the effects of early malnutrition remain, for example many undernourished children never reach their full height potential.

Meet Svondo in our Lent Family Fast Day Video.

It was fascinating to hear that in Zimbabwe the collapse of the economy, combined with climate change has led to the country struggling to produce enough food for everyone to eat. It is so sad to know that in Zimbabwe, one in four children under five have stunted growth from not getting enough decent food.

It’s very exciting to learn that CAFOD’s response means we can do something about it. I was touched by Marian’s story. To know that Tawanda was so hungry he’d sit in the same place all day is terrible. To know that Marian’s youngest son, Svondo, is healthy and growing well because CAFOD’s partners supported Marian by giving her vegetable seeds, nutrition and farming training inspires me to participate in the Lent Family Fast Day in my parish.

The UK-AID matching up all donations to 5 million means that all our efforts can be doubled… how moving.’

If you want to hear more about Zimbabwe and CAFOD’s response :

  1. Join your local Family Fast Day briefing
  2. Watch CAFOD Lent Family Fast day video and meet Svondo
  3. Download our Lent Family Fast Day resources online