Speak up young people of Norwich!

This week, CAFOD volunteers visited the Catholic schools of the Norwich area. There they engaged Year 6 and Year 10 students in a series of activities in relation to the Speak up Week of Action as part of the Power to be Campaign.

The year 6, Saint Francis of Assisi students were introduced to the campaign with a couple of questions where they were asked to share with everyone what electricity they had already used up to that moment.

That question sure got them going! Charging phones, microwaving their porridge, toasting their bread and using cars to get to schools where a few among the shouted examples. Students quickly began to realise how much electricity they had already used during the past few hours of the day. This made it easy for them to understand, the importance of having electricity as a basic need all around the world and not just for the few.

One in six people worldwide do not have access to electricity. Students were surprised with this figure and CAFOD volunteers explained how 84% of people live in rural areas, where access to the traditional mode of electricity is much harder. As the saying goes; where there is a will there is a way, and CAFOD is supporting that way.

CAFOD helps to bring a different way of life with many new possibilities for the locals, by simply installing solar panels on the rooftops of rural homes. So how can we be the change? By speaking up!

That’s exactly what the Saint Francis of Assisi students did. CAFOD volunteers held a training for public speaking workshop with the students which involved a fun game of Lingo Bingo and a challenge to speak without ‘umming’ or ‘ahhing’, deviation or repetition (perhaps you’ve heard this on the radio). That sure got them practicing for whenever they would like to use their words to bring change in the world!

The year 10, Notre Dame High School students were given the chance to actually use their words to bring about change. The students wrote messages, pleas and suggestions to their influential person of authority, spanning from local members of parliament to leaders from the four corners of the world.

The teens used the statistical figures that had been discussed during an earlier activity to build their arguments. Donald Trump, Theresa May and even the local Norwich MP Chloë Smith were being challenged by the students to bring about a change. Here is an example of how the next generation has managed to use their words to action change:

“Dear MP of Norwich,
The percentages of poverty in 3rd world countries are astonishing and it has to change! Please attempt to take the 84% of people that do not have electricity in rural areas and find a way to fund charities to install renewable energy supplies that will be beneficial for the people of the country! They deserve to live like us!
Thank you, xoxo NDHS :)”

Power to be from Kenya to St. Alban’s High School, Ipswich

Can you imagine having a rainy gloomy school day in Ipswich where students have to attend classes in the dark and then go to a home where the only source of light available makes you cough?

It is quite a grim reality to have to live with but surprisingly enough in 2017, 1.2 billion people in the world still do not have access to electricity of which 291 million are school children. Veronica, who was one of these school children, today is able to see the light at the end of the tunnel all thanks to CAFOD and its Campaign Power to be.

An aspiring student from Kenya, Veronica’s wish to become a politician is more approachable today than it was a couple of years ago. Before CAFOD came into the picture, Veronica was unable to continue working on her education as she only had a paraffin lamp to light up her homework and studies when she arrived home. The paraffin smoke was becoming a health hazard as she started having respiratory problems. With CAFOD’s help, Veronica was given the opportunity to continue with her studies in a healthy environment.

CAFOD was able to fit in solar panels at her school to help light their classroom during the darkest of days. Today she is able to take with her to school her new solar lamp to charge during the day. She then uses the solar lamp at home while she catches up on some extra late night reading, which brings her closer to her dream day by day.

This week, 200 Year 10 students at St. Alban’s High School in Ipswich were introduced to people and realities similar to Veronica’s. Our CAFOD volunteers Mike and Kevin worked with the students to collect messages and ideas to bring forward to politicians to make them aware of the benefits of using sustainable and affordable energy.

Students were able to see how organisations such as CAFOD are able to help millions of people around the world reach their potentials and maybe even provide them with the Power to be tomorrow’s politicians.

A look back at 90+ years of Volunteering

What do Bernard, Mary and Sheila have in common? It could be many things, however, one thing they do share is their passion and dedication for CAFOD. Together they have offered more than 90 years of service to the charity and continue to do so to this very day.

Mary, Sheila and Bernard – enjoying tea with the Bishop

Bernard presented with the Papal Blessing by Father Philip

Bernard Shaw began his volunteering journey 36 years ago following his attendance at the First National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool. A chemical engineer by profession, he splits his time between his very own organic garden and volunteering for CAFOD. He became a founding member of the parish of St Philip Howard in 1987 and soon after became the CAFOD parish volunteer. Not only has he been promoting CAFOD at a local level but he has also spread his efforts throughout Cambridge Catholic churches as well as across the Diocese, most recently as a LiveSimply Assessor. His quiet enthusiasm has never wavered and he has constantly surprised CAFOD with his ambition and drive to do more.

Bishop Alan asking Sheila how she first got involved with CAFOD

Former much-loved English teacher, Sheila Dobey, remembers her start within CAFOD in Preston as a supporter for the charity. In the mid-1980s, she moved to Stowmarket where along with two other parishioners, she founded the CAFOD+ Group. Sheila was the local person who kept the group in touch with CAFOD by attending meetings and encouraging their actions. Her efforts have prompted into action the parish of Our Lady in Stowmarket to support CAFOD by raising money for World Gifts (Community Water Supply) and the parish’s latest endeavour, becoming a LiveSimply Parish. She continues to be affected by the needs of people around the world and manages to find a reservoir of energy to dedicate to CAFOD’s noble cause.

Mary Prentice began volunteering for CAFOD, along with her late husband Michael, in the early 1990s after converting to the Roman Catholic Church. While working as a teacher and headmistress, she was able to dedicate countless hours along the years to drive and support many causes for CAFOD. With her husband by her side, she poured her energy into supporting CAFOD, firstly at St Dominic’s parish in Downham Market, and then at Our Lady of Pity in Swaffham where she still serves. Mary was really helpful with her research work for Connect2:Ethiopia project and through her work for CAFOD’s stall at the National Shrine in Walsingham. She continues to show her creative talents through the creation of new prayers and ideas for prayer cards.

Bishop Alan announcing the Papal Blessings

The trio were invited to tea by Bishop Alan last Friday 9th June, who expressed his wish to thank them in person for their continuing services to CAFOD. Following an animated discussion about CAFOD’s role within the Catholic Church, Bishop Alan presented CAFOD East Anglia’s three long-serving volunteers with the Papal Blessing. The Bishop’s very own words to describe the occasion were: “What a good occasion!” A good occasion it was indeed!

Volunteers like these and many others are the crew members that keep the CAFOD ship sailing. They have been there to battle through the waves to bring life, hope and dignity to men, women and children from all around the globe. We salute you!