CAFOD Westminster Office Volunteer Sister Carmel Ring gives her account of our Volunteer Fast Day Briefing on Saturday 19 January
The International Focus this Lent Family Fast day is on Bangladesh. The Programme Officer for Bangladesh, Richard Sloman, who has been to Bangladesh many times in the past seven and a half years on Saturday presented that country’s problems in a most interesting and inspirational address in a totally comprehensive manner in keeping with Richard’s own first- hand experience.
CAFOD’s annual budget for Bangladesh is approximately £150, 000 for longer term work and for over 30 years funds have been spent in an attempt to alleviate some of the problems which arise from recurring disastrous events, exacerbated by climate change in the region. Flooding in this low-lying country is frequent, and the salt water ruins crops, the foundations of the houses are so damaged by flooding that they often collapse and large numbers of people are often rendered homeless. In conjunction with the local charity, Caritas Bangladesh, efforts are made to educate the people in taking responsibility for the upbuilding of the areas where the worst of the catastrophes occur. Buildings and shelter are constructed by local people trained for the task, women are shown how to grow a variety of crops more resilient to climate change, new methods of rearing livestock are introduced. This help gives hope to a suffering people. There is great respect for the Church and the Catholic organisations that strive to give the people pride in themselves and in their ability to bring about improvements in their own situation themselves. Crafts are taught and skills developed. But it all costs money. We are intensely grateful to our Volunteers who persist in bringing this need to the notice of Parish communities by speaking at Mass, taking part in heightening awareness campaigns and engaging people in all sorts of fundraising activities at parish levels and visiting schools. If there is anything more you can do to help please get in touch with us immediately.
There is a short film of CAFOD’s work in Bangladesh which can be viewed on youtube here.
The problems I have outlined above are bad enough without the additional crises due to the arrival in Bangladesh of hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighbouring Myanmar since 2017. To a country approximately half the size of the UK with a population almost three times its size it is a huge burden to feed such large numbers of people who arrive with no possessions apart from the clothes they are wearing. Small wonder there is widespread hunger . International Agencies such as the United Nations do their best to feed them and CAFOD tries to share what they can. Perhaps our own government could do more to encourage the Government of Bangladesh to persuade those in positions of power to focus on greater social justice and do what they can to prevent refugees from being forced to return to Myanmar where further persecution and violence could await them. Any repatriation must therefore be voluntary. In all of this there is no shortage of work for Volunteers. Can you see your way in helping in any way?
After the presentation on Bangladesh we broke up into four groups to discuss other relevant topics, the Live Simply campaign in parishes, how to act as a volunteer in parishes, how to engage in peace building in Columbia with our new “Hands One Scheme” and the various aspects of Volunteering. The morning ended with a Mass in celebration of the theme of care of Creation, as outlined in Laudato Si’ A shared lunch followed. We are most grateful to all who participated in this Briefing Day, to Richard Sloman for his excellent presentation, to the group discussion animators, to all who attended and to all who worked behind the scenes to make this event such a success.
Thank you all most sincerely.
Sr Carmel M Ring
Westminster Office Volunteer