Andrew Clark is CAFOD East Anglia’s Schools Volunteer Coordinator. He arranges introductions and helps coordinate relationships between those who go into school to share CAFOD’s work and the Head Teachers in Catholic schools across the diocese.
Before taking this role with CAFOD, Andrew was Head Teacher of the federated schools of St Edmund’s Primary School and St Benet’s Primary School. This was his last teaching role before retiring. Before that he worked in state schools and CAFOD gave Andrew an opportunity to combine his knowledge of education with his desire to put his faith into action.
In the nicest way possible he says to schools “Come on, what’s your bit for CAFOD?”
CAFOD helps schools to bring to life the Catholic ethos and Catholic Social Teaching. Andrew says, “In many ways, CAFOD’s activity in schools ticks so many boxes”.
Some schools volunteers will go into parishes to arrange assemblies and run classes, others will be a link person between CAFOD and the local school, going into schools and saying a few words of thanks and giving encouragement when schools engage in CAFOD activities, supporting the Parish Priests to with these important relationships.
The volunteers build a good relationship with the schools, and the invitations and offers to work with the pupils, through lunch and after-school groups, classes and assemblies are arranged between them. Andrew helps the schools volunteers to get on with it, while being available for them and for the Head Teachers – as someone who understands what it is like.
CAFOD’s Education Team produces some wonderful resources and one afternoon a month Andrew spends checking out what’s new and available on the CAFOD’s website.
He may spend another afternoon a month visiting schools, for instance in Kings Lynn and Newmarket. When schools can easily feel isolated, the work that Andrew and CAFOD does with schools, and on occasion bring different schools together, is really important. It may be different in large metropolitan areas like Westminster, Birmingham or Liverpool, but in large and rural areas like East Anglia, being able to work with one another helps to strengthen the Church and our shared commitment to our children.
As and when he is needed, Andrew will visit schools. During Advent and Lent he is more busy, organising and running a couple of afterschool events a month, finding out how far CAFOD’s schools volunteers have got with their plans and supporting the teachers through twilight sessions. CAFOD’s current schools volunteers are experienced and know what is available and aren’t scared to ask for help when they need it. Training is also available from CAFOD’s education team, both in London and around the country.
“I hadn’t done much having only spent two years in a Catholic School. I could contribute something and I enjoyed the meetings I had with Catholic colleagues.” “I said ‘Yes’ because CAFOD focused on development, and having been a volunteer out in Africa for two years and coming away thinking ‘What have I achieved? What was the point?’”
“I wanted to do what I could to make a difference. That’s why I agreed to this role. That’s the Lord working in mysterious ways. I’d come back from Zambia and thought I’d wasted everyone’s time when I became a head teacher. Yet, there are young people now whose lives are transformed by what I have been able to do. There was a purpose.”
“I’ve been able to help with the schools and the little ones here. Primary school children are open to the idea of fairness, and being able to show them the situation facing children like them, but facing injustice, and hearing them say ‘That’s not fair!’ and they’d want to do something about it”.
“The best part of the role is being in teacher’s staff rooms, talking to them and opening their eyes and minds to what CAFOD is about. The Advent for Africa event last year was a really powerful example, as schools came together to support CAFOD. I also like coming away from an assembly or class and saying ‘That was nice: that’s a privilege’.”
“I’d advise a school’s coordinator to be patient with the Head Teachers, to understand what they can do and be realistic. You’d go into schools sometimes for a meeting, you’d be handing around and know that they’d be quickly prepare for the meeting.” In some schools the Head Teacher is also the RE coordinator and may also be the only practising Catholic, so there is a lot of dependency on them. “Keep the positive enthusiasm for a great bit of work that we are doing and that we can share with others.”
You don’t have to be a teacher or a parent (although experience with either of these roles will help). A commitment to social justice and a passion to inspire children are all you need, we’ll help you with the rest.
Andrew Clark was interviewed by Stephen Matthews.