On the evening of Tuesday 3rd June, more than 50 CAFOD volunteers welcomed Abba Solomon and Abba Teum, two priests from Sebeya, Ethiopia, to share their experiences of working with CAFOD as part of the Connect2 programme. Stefan King, a CAFOD volunteer from Holy Family, Acton (West) was among them, and he recently reflected on the experience of forming a direct link with others overseas:
‘This is my first event as the parish CAFOD volunteer. For decades, I have been interested in the growth of Africa, particularly countries facing difficulties out of their control such as drought and climate change. My first recollection of Ethiopia was the 1984 famine. Later, I became interested in the political problems of this region of Africa.
I felt it was very special that the two speakers came from Sebeya which is a village in northern Ethiopia. I was very encouraged to hear that CAFOD share resources with other charities to help local people tackle difficult circumstances. The sense of problem solving also breaks through religious boundaries, which gave me a great feeling of togetherness, a renewed optimism for humankind.
Hearing the difficulties faced by Sebeya, you appreciate the complexity facing communities around the world and how each area has different challenges. In northern Ethiopia, food poverty, malnutrition, diseases (HIV/Aids) and economic justice are some of the key factors affecting Sebeya. This reinforced my energy to help my brothers and sisters, and encouraged me to really try to understand the situation better. It also highlighted that there are so many ways to help and participate.
Despite the Ethiopian economy growing 11% last year, the wealth divide is also increasing, meaning most people live on less than two dollars a day. This angers me as one of the stumbling blocks to social justice, it just shows inequality happens everywhere. We have to tackle this head on.
Sebeya is at the foot of a mountain which thirty years ago was covered in trees. Due to repeated extensive droughts, the mountain is now just covered in scrub, causing further problems. Maintaining a good water supply is crucial for any community and it is one area I am particularly interested in. I want to play my part in helping Sebeya which is a rural village, to have access to this basic resource. We were shown the primitive houses of local farmers, whose guard dogs live on the roof.
The Connect2 campaign, as well as helping on the ground, allows parishes and individuals in the UK to have a direct link with Sebeya. This enables donors to have a relationship with the community in Ethiopia. I am reinvigorated in my support of CAFOD and the realisation that any fundraising will have a real and direct impact, is very profound.’
Getting involved in Connect2 one of the greatest ways for parishes to live in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the developing world. Connect2 parishes are linked to a community in the developing world, so that they can share stories, send each other messages of hope, love and solidarity and offer support as they work to improve their lives. To find out more about becoming a Connect2 parish, visit cafod.org.uk/connect2.