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

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

Volunteers’ Day on 4 February 2017: 50 People are coming – are you?

CAFOD Volunteers during Harvest Fast Day Briefing ready to speak in their local parishes,

CAFOD Volunteers during Harvest Fast Day Briefing

50 people have already booked for CAFOD volunteers’ Day on Saturday 4 February 2017 in Amigo hall, Lambeth Road, London, SE1 6HR from 10 am to 2:45pm. There are still some spaces available. Book today here or call our office volunteer centre in Southwark on 0208 466 9901.

Tea and coffee will be served from 9:45am-10:15am

10:15            Introductions and reflection
CAFOD history, ethos and work
Fundraising and Stewardship update
International work update
Volunteering with CAFOD

12:15             Speaker Clare Dixon – CAFOD Head of Latin America

1:00 pm         Lunch. Please bring your own to help keep costs to a minimum.

1:40                Prayer

1:50                Lent Fast Day: Discover Florence’s story and the project in Zambia

2:10                Sharing the practical mechanics of running an appeal in the parish

2:45                Good bye and Good Luck in your parish.

If you are not available on Saturday and would like to attend a CAFOD Lent Fast Day Briefing please join us in St John Vianney, 21 Heathfield Road, Bexleyheath, DA6 8NP on Friday 3 February between 10:30 am and 12:30pm. You can book here.

Eat some soup and transform lives!

Tomorrow is CAFOD Lent Fast Day. Join with fellow Catholics across Southwark and eat some soup to transform lives tomorrow or on any other day.

Lent is about transforming our own lives and other people’s lives around us, it is about getting back to God and make a change, a transformation. Today we would like to let you know how eating soup could transform the lives of so many girls in some of the world’s poorest country.

How does it work? Invite your friends, family or fellow parishioners for a “Simple Lunch”. It’s a lunch where you and other people get together for a simple lunch of soup and bread, and donate to CAFOD the money you would have used for eating out. This money goes towards our Lent Campaign.

What should you know about “Simple Lunch”? It originates from the three pillars of lent, which are praying, fasting and almsgiving. When you get together, you can pray collectively, fast collectively; through the simple meal you have. Then finally give together, as you donate the money you would have used to eat out. This is an opportunity to put your faith into action and change your life and the lives of those around you. Fancy getting involved?

What is CAFOD’s Lent appeal this year? It focuses on bringing clean water to communities and households. Many countries around the world do not have direct access to clean water and therefore young girls have to travel long distances to fetch water, where usually the water is contaminated with diseases. Uganda is an example of this, almost one in four people in Uganda do not have access to safe water. For 14-year-old Proscovia, this meant that she had to collect water for her family, missing hours of school. She almost had to give up her education entirely. This is a prime example of the devastating effects that having no access to clean water can lead too. Proscovia is denied of two fundamental human rights, which is the right to access clean water and the right to an education. Through your involvement in the “Simple Lunch” experience you will be able to transform the lives of people like Proscovia, where the money that you donate can help provide clean, safe water to people living in poverty. This water means so much: enough to drink; freedom from disease, sanitation and dignity; time saved. For Proscovia, water meant an education, and a chance to follow her dreams. The dream of becoming an engineer and because of your donations, she can now fulfil this dream. Look at how much your involvement changes lives, you have the power to make a change and transform the lives of girls just like Proscovia. For more information please watch Proscovia’s video.

Here at our Southwark volunteer centre, many of our volunteers have been participating in the simple lunch, by having tomato soup and bread for lunch. Also, we know that some of our parishes within Southwark are organising the simple lunch during this lent period, lots of people are involved, so why don’t you? Find your local parish in Southwark, call a friend or do it at home with your family! To make life a bit easier for you when participating in the “Simple Lunch”” here is a recipe for a delicious tomato soup!

Tomato Soup
2 Cans of 800g peeled tomatoes
3 Carrots
2 leeks
1 Onion
1 branch of celery
2 litres of water
Seasoning e/g 4 vegetable stock cubes or basil, salt

Leave to cook for 45 minutes and blend everything together.

Have this soup with fresh bread and enjoy your simple lunch! Take time to pray dwelling in God’s presence.

Finally , as much as your CAFOD donations would help provide access to clean water , it will also allow for the people to experience Gods power and able to experience God in a way in which they have not before. John 4:14 says but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” As well as providing them with physical water, we are providing them with a spiritual water that allows for them to always have direct access to it and it will never run out! You will be able to do this, all you need to do is get involved and take part in the simple lunch. You can transform a life.

Thank you for Feyi Odesola for her contribution in writing this blog.