Two dedicated CAFOD volunteers shared their thoughts on charity work they have been engaged in for the past years.
Bernard began volunteering for CAFOD 36 years ago. He says:
“I came back to Cambridge after two stints in the states with an agrochemical company and was looking to reintegrate into the community. I had returned from the US in a privileged position financially and wanted to give back. I only joined St. Philip Howard, which was a relatively new parish back then, by accident. I joined SVP and was one of the founding members of our parish’s Justice and Peace group – there are only two of us left now! From that, I got to know a nun who was having problem getting funds to CAFOD, so worked alongside her for a time and through that I came across CAFOD’s education campaign ‘Just Food’.
I would have said that it would be quite unlikely that I would still be volunteering for CAFOD in 30 years time if you’d asked me when I first started! But if my health stands up, I would think I’d still be volunteering in ten years time.”
Mary got involved with CAFOD’s work in the early 1990s, along with her late husband. She recalls:
“In our parish in Downham every mass this wonderful lady, Elsie Travers, would stand with the bucket – the CAFOD bucket we called it! – asking for spare coppers for CAFOD. I got talking to her and she gave me information about CAFOD and so on. She really is one of the reasons I got involved with CAFOD.”
Both Bernard and Mary have been very active and effective campaigners. Mary was involved in the CAFOD campaign against dirty gold, which called on gold mining to take responsibility for both the environment and their workers. She ran the Walsingham efforts and created a large paper chain, with each chain bearing the name of a CAFOD supporter who had said a Hail Mary for the campaign. Mary distributed sections of the chain to manufacturers of church supplies such as Hayes and Finch, which prompted the company to respond saying they’d only use reputable sources of gold.
“I probably got more out of our volunteering it than anyone else!”
As Bernard states: “The constant theme in my years volunteering for CAFOD has been campaigning. I hadn’t done any campaigning before CAFOD. My first experience of this was a lobby of parliament in 1980, which reminded me of the importance to influence government. The need for that hasn’t changed.”
Bernard has also been involved with the lobby of four MPs in Cambridge across all three parties, and all were responsive.
Both volunteers recently met with the Bishop Alan, and were presented with the Papal Blessing. According to Bernard:
“It was good to meet him [the Bishop] quite informally and have a general conversation – it was very useful. I was surprised to receive a Papal Blessing as it wasn’t really on my radar, although I’ve received acknowledgments before for commitment to CAFOD.”
Mary on the Papal Blessing:
“I had no idea! It’s not something I’d ever thought about. I had a phonecall from Stephen about having tea with the Bishop, which I wasn’t too surprised about. When the Bishop was a young priest I was in his parish and headteacher of the local school so my husband and I knew him very well – he even married us. I still haven’t come down to Earth. All the ladies in the congregation were looking through for their best Ascot hats for me to wear!”
Both shared their most memorable instances. As Bernard put it:
“One of my best memories with CAFOD was actually quite recently. I was doing a LiveSimply assessment for a parish in Diss, and it was great to see the energy in the room, in the parish and the full participation of the parish priest. It was a very inspiring day.”
He also found addressing the misinformation e.g. on CAFOD’s HIV/AIDs programme really satisfying.
“I became aware of environmental matters with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and as part of my studies I was more concerned about the environmental impacts of chemicals rather than chemistry I was supposed to be focusing on. I suppose there’s always been an appreciation of creation in its widest sense – I was brought up in rural East Yorkshire so the roots have been there for a long time.
People are well aware of development issues when there are emergencies such as Typhon Haiyan but people are living in increasingly precarious environments and it’s really important that’s addressed. We’ve seen progress since I started volunteering at CAFOD but we’ve also come across new challenges.”
“I met one of the ladies who started CAFOD with the Fast Day. And one moment that really stands out and always make me emotional came about when I was doing the campaign on dirty gold. There were three little traveller girls who had come to Walsingham, one 10, one 8 and one 5. I told them why we were saying the Hail Mary and when they asked if they could say one, I told them it had to be a golden Hail Mary and they had to say it as nicely as possible. So they promptly put their hands together and started saying Hail Mary, but the little five year old, who was between the older two, kept getting it wrong. When she did she got a vicious poke from the little elbows on either side! But when she got it right, the little one beamed at me and said ‘There, won’t the lady be pleased.’
I loved meeting people. Everybody who came was so keen to tell you what there were doing for CAFOD in their parish. It was wonderful, they were so proud and had such enthusiasm! That was the thing that really impressed me, the love the Catholic laity have for CAFOD. When they do all that they do, the least I could do was open the stall! I also was struck by the kindness of everybody, it became so much a family.
I have tried ever so hard to get people to volunteer. We used to support Sebeya in Ethiopia and each fortnight I put up a different picture of someone from Sebeya to keep it at the front of people’s minds. We also would have a mass and a meal on the 12th of the month as in Sebeya that’s what they do, so it was a way of coming together. And when we’re asked for intercessions, we sometimes pray for the three little girls from Walsingham and CAFOD!”