Inspiring Volunteer Fast Day Briefing

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 Volunteers celebrated Mass at our Lent Family Fast Day briefing
CAFOD Volunteers celebrated Mass at our Lent Family Fast Day briefing

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.

CAFOD Volunteers at our Lent Family Fast Day briefing
CAFOD Volunteers at our Lent Family Fast Day briefing

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?

CAFOD Volunteers at our Lent Family Fast Day briefing
CAFOD Volunteers at our Lent Family Fast Day briefing

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

Over £300 raised at the Barnet Soup Lunch.


The CAFOD volunteer team at Mary Immaculate and St Gregory the Great in Barnet recently held a Simple Soup Lunch in which parishioners and guests were invited to take up the “live simply” challenge in order to make a donation to CAFOD of the money saved. Despite being held on a Friday lunch time, when many would have been at work, away Baby Buggyfrom the parish, the soup lunch attracted around fifty diners and raised over £300.00.

The soup, cooked by the volunteer team, arrived carried on foot, by car and by baby buggy! Finished in the Presbytery Kitchen the soup was soon served to Finishingappreciative “customers” who had time to catch up with friends and find out a little more about what CAFOD was about. With four varieties of soup on offer, everyone was catered for and the meal was enhanced by bread, fresh from the High Street.

This is not the first Simple Soup Lunch to be offered. Barnet parish has a history of successful events of this type. All have been well supported although the CAFOD volunteer team were particularly pleased with the turn out for this latest event.

Find out about holding your own soup lunch and other fundraising ideas here

Well done Barnet Volunteers.


Hearing the Cry of the Poor

Sister Clara inspires CAFOD volunteers this Harvest


Sister Clara, from the Sacred Heart order, raised the spirits of nearly sixty people when she addressed an information meeting at the Cockfosters Regional Office. Speaking with great warmth and clarity, she explained the difference that CAFOD had made to the lives of thousands of poor people in her home country, Zambia.

At a time time of great need, when challenged by the calamities of the AIDS epidemic and rapid climate change, her sisters had tended the sick and dying. In the early 1990s, and with CAFOD”s help, they built a community school for orphans and other vulnerable children which had enabled them to master practical skills to support themselves, and their families, and continue their education. With the introduction of life-saving retroviral drugs, CAFOD was continuing to support projects which restored to people with the disease, self esteem and confidence through training in skills and know how. They had won a livelihood and were being empowered, thanks to the generosity of Catholics in England and Wales, through CAFOD.

The Church in Zambia, rooted in the lives of the poor, had been the first major voice to raise alarm about climate change. For decades before 2003 the vital rains came to Zambian farmers precisely on October 24 every year. Since then there has been no pattern in the timing or the quantity of the rain, and last year the late arrival of floods had ruined the harvest. With CAFOD’s help ZamSrClarabian farmers were switching from growing maize to growing pumpkins, which were better suited to the new conditions.

Sister Clara said that her order had a record of tackling problems that others would not. They had been first to provide schools for girls in Zambia in the 1950s. Then they had gone against the  mindset of the times by opening schools for children with special needs. With the help of CAFOD they were giving these people, too, livelihoods and confidence in the future.

The inspirational account given by Sister Clara, and the great warmth of her gratitude to the CAFOD volunteers, who made up nearly all of her audience, was the perfect rallying call as the Harvest Family Fast Day, on October 5th, becomes the focus. If any further encouragement was needed Tony Sheen, our Community Clara&groupParticipation Co-ordinator, told the volunteers that the magnificent sum of £4.274,million was being used at that very time to bring relief to people whose lives were in jeopardy because of the typhoon in the Philippines and the floods in Kerala. CAFOD was extending not hand outs, but a helping hand to people who had shown, and would show, that they could overcome devastating problems and assert their strengths and dignity. Sr Clara’s words reminded all present what a privilege it was to help in their victory over adversities.

Find out how you can support CAFOD this  Harvest here