It was such a pleasure to welcome 103 volunteers and supporters to our online meeting from the Brentwood, Westminster, Portsmouth, Southwark, East Anglia and Arundel and Brighton Dioceses on Saturday 30 January which proved to be a record turnout so far! It was particularly wonderful to see new faces too.
The morning started with a welcome by Tony Sheen (Westminster Coordinator) and a prayer led by Sarah Cadwallader (Southwark Coordinator.)
Jo Lewry (Portsmouth Coordinator) thanked everyone for all they had done to support Harvest Fast Day and the Coronavirus Appeal saying, it was through the incredible support and generosity of our supporters that CAFOD was able to raise funds, despite the lockdown. This gives us hope for the Lent Appeal.
Marine Harrington (Southwark Coordinator) gave a heartfelt explanation about the new campaign, Reclaim Our Common Home and encouraged supporters to sign the online petition urging the Government to put poor communities at the heart of the COP26 talks in Glasgow in November.
One in three people globally, do not have access to safe drinking water! Our Lenten focus this year is therefore about the lack of water in Ethiopia. As always, our appeal focuses on an example of CAFOD’s work. This led beautifully to the next part of the presentation where Jane Crone, (Coordinator for East Anglia) introduced the guest speaker, Conor Molloy, Country Director of Ethiopia
Connor started by saying; ‘thank you everyone on this call for all you do for CAFOD. It makes a difference to the lives of people in Ethiopia, across Africa, Latin America and Asia…particularly in 2020 which was such a difficult year in the UK.’ He stressed that without their support; CAFOD’s work would not be possible. He showed a slide of Abdella someone he had met many times, (the focus for the Lent story,) who comes from a region called Afar in NE Ethiopia. He said that the 23-year-old had dreams for his life such as starting a family and setting up a business but that this was not possible currently, whilst he was having to spend ten hours a day collecting water for his family. Conor described Afar which is east of the Tigray region. It is one of the hottest, most inhospitable places on earth.
- Abdella’s journey to collect water
Conor described Abdella’s ten-hour day walk consisting of two daily journeys to collect water which is not always drinkable, in terrible heat across an arduous, dangerous, slippery terrain. A solution was shown in the Tigray region where Hagos lives and where CAFOD’s Church partner has enabled the community to dig deep wells where the water runs downhill and sinks deep into the ground in the lower regions and for reservoirs to be constructed with solar panel water pumps. Consequently, the area has been transformed into a fertile, sustainable, productive area where the people are thriving with their livelihoods.
Conor touched briefly upon the unrest in the Tigray region. Not much information could be shared due to the sensitivity of the situation there and that local experts and partners’ valuable work could not jeopardised. There was a recent report in the Guardian about the situation in Tigray but otherwise supporters were asked to look on the CAFOD website for further information and also, details were there about the Tigray Appeal.
Conor concluded by saying that what he really liked about CAFOD was the ‘ability it had to look at long term, systemic changes which would transform lives as well as being a humanitarian agency responding to the growing conflict and the covid situations. Again, he thanked supporters for their ongoing dedication and commitment and encouraged them to engage with their parishes to make others aware of Abdella’s and Hagos’ plights, to pray for them and to support the Lent Appeal.
After a short break, Chris Driscoll (Coordinator for Brentwood) then fielded some questions for Conor. One person asked if water was easy to drill in Afar, and Conor said that the area was challenging and so was more expensive to address as it required top notch technology and highly qualified water engineers to drill holes to reach the water table. Another question was about opposition to a Catholic Agency helping a region that had a low Catholic population. The answer was that CAFOD works with all faiths and none but does not evangelise, and so the Catholic Church there is highly respected in the region for the work it does.
Jenny Finlayson (Coordinator for Arundel and Brighton) next talked about how supporters could join in solidarity with Abdella and others who have to walk for water everyday through, praying, acting and giving. CAFOD’s 40-day challenge to Walk for Water was an example whereby supporters were challenged to encourage their community to walk 10,000 steps each day during Lent and set up a Just Giving page. Alternatively, at least, to walk in solidarity on Saturday 20 February at 2pm in the national BIG Walk for Water. Being sponsored, or by sponsoring others to walk, can be an act of solidarity with Abdella and others who have to walk for water every day.
Following a chance to have a chat and share ideas, the meeting concluded with Jane Crone and Celeste Iyinbo (Coordinator for Southwark) talking about the upcoming dates and the Lent Appeal in Churches and how the emphasis will be on online giving, due to many churches being closed.
The meeting was very lively with lots of comments and questions. People left enthused and energised, keen to promote the Lent Appeal and the walks to their parishes, friends, and family. Anne Marie from West Berkshire commented afterwards, “this was as inspiring as usual. I really love hearing from a speaker…. It really makes a difference to my motivation levels!”
Thank you to all who attended the session. It was wonderful as to see you! We look forward to hearing how you get on.