My mother, Marjorie, was deeply committed to CAFOD’s work and when she died six years ago, I wasn’t surprised to learn that as well as providing for friends and family, she’d also remembered CAFOD in her will.
I was intrigued to find out how gifts like my mother’s are put to use. So when I was invited to Nicaragua to see for myself and report back to fellow CAFOD supporters, I jumped at the chance.
We visited a number of impressive projects, but if I had to choose one that really stood out– and that my mother, a qualified nurse, would really have approved of – it would be the community health clinic we saw being built in the tiny hillside village of Puntizuela.
For years, people here and in nearby villages had to rely mainly on volunteers, as a trained nurse could only visit once a month. If someone fell ill between these visits, they had to walk or be carried to the nearest town – three hours away, along a steep road prone to landslides.
Things had to change, so local community leaders got together with the John XXIII Institute and came up with a plan to build a clinic. Then CAFOD supporters helped to make it happen.
The Institute was able to supply the materials, tools and a small team of professional builders to train and supervise local volunteers. When we visited, two weeks into the construction, the external walls were already up. Those not strong enough to build were helping out by fetching sand and water or making lunch for the workers. It was wonderful to see.
There was a real understanding among the volunteers that this clinic would improve and even save the lives of family members, friends and neighbours for generations to come – that this was to be their legacy.
I’ve read many times that CAFOD helps people to help themselves, but it was only there on that rocky hillside in Puntizuela that I fully understood what this means. Standing alongside people with new skills and a new sense of self-worth, hearing how they were looking forward to the future with hope and imagining a better life for their children and grandchildren; it was a real privilege.