Rebecca, one of three Step into the Gap volunteers in Lancaster Diocese, is about to depart for her overseas trip to Cambodia. We asked her how she is feeling, how she is preparing for her trip and to reflect on the year so far. Rebecca writes:
I decided from a visit to Abbotswick House of Prayer that spending a gap year at a Catholic Retreat Centre, gaining skills working with young people and being creative with how we talked to them about faith would be extremely exciting. I researched into the CAFOD gap year after that and thought that the overseas experience, as well as the role of bringing CAFOD’s work into retreats, would be a fantastic opportunity for me.
When starting to think about writing this pre-departure blog, I began to think about the process I went through to take part in Step Into the Gap as a whole. It all started last August when I was fortunate enough to spend some time at Abbotswick house. I had decided in my second year of Uni that I wanted to take a gap year after graduating and was in the process of thinking about what I might like to do for it.
It has been a whirlwind so far after graduating, and the retreat centre work has kept me busy! It has been fun to have two single focuses: being Castlerigg and CAFOD that I can put my energy into. Working to meet short deadlines has been completely different to Uni, where I was managing larger projects. I have no doubt that Cambodia will be another whirlwind experience for me. But I also do not doubt that it will be something I will treasure for a long time.
Reading about CAFOD’s work and learning more through preparing workshops has been extremely interesting so far. So, to actually have the chance to see first-hand the work CAFOD are doing to help people help themselves in local communities in Cambodia will be surreal but in an informative, interesting and exciting way. The thought I had back in August 2018 is now becoming a reality. Once I am packed and sure I have everything I could need, all that will be left to do is to make the most of the experience!
After our international prep weekend, I am now more aware of just how rare this sort of opportunity is, and how worthwhile it can be. I know that the Step into the gap programme is designed to develop leadership skills, and I am excited to face challenges and grow through them whilst in Cambodia and afterwards as a result. I am especially looking forward to improving my initiative, knowledge, environmental awareness, teamwork skills, ability to adapt to new situations and enjoy the experience but gain from it too. Another thing I am intrigued about is how we will all get on and work together as a group. I think there is a real mix of characters and I am excited to get to know people better and work with them all!!
As well as getting to know fellow team members, I am excited to meet and spend time with people from all the different areas of Cambodia. I am excited to see what Phnom Penh, Veal Veng, Pursat, Battambang, Krokor and Siem Reap are like to live in. I am interested in seeing how the charities COCD and KBO fulfill their work. I am aware that the people I will meet will be able to teach me a lot and I can be inspired by their work in practice. I am particularly excited to meet people working for KBO, as I am intrigued by the work that they do to help disabled persons. It is something that has become much closer to my heart after spending time working at a camp for people with special needs over Summer. I am also excited to gain a deeper understanding of the youth in the different areas, in terms of how their culture may differ to the culture of the young people I come across during retreats! It will be such a great experience to be able to feedback to my team at Castlerigg and the young people we get here, just simply what similarities and differences there are in culture between England and Cambodia. I am also going to set a goal for myself to learn as many simple Cambodian phrases as I can during my time there and to remember them afterwards!!
I am also excited to experience my faith in a new way. During the past few months, I have realised how powerful prayer can be. I now know just how strong it is that I can be anywhere in the world and pray, knowing that God is there to support me through the ups and downs that I come across. I am excited to travel with God beside me to Cambodia and learn from others in their faith whilst I am there.
Below is a picture of the CAFOD prayer space we had during the International Prep weekend. The prayer time we had for reflection and bringing together our anxieties as well as aspirations for the International visit was a really powerful aspect of the preparation, and I am glad that we are doing the visit with God at the centre of our collective thoughts and actions.