James finishes his CAFOD Gap year placement

James Ronan, 24, has written a reflective piece about finishing Step into the Gap, sharing stories of Cambodia, his highlights and what his hopes are for a future career.

So the time has come to say goodbye to Blackpool and St Mary’s Catholic Academy. It has been incredible year, moving all the way up from Devon to live in Blackpool to volunteer for CAFOD. It has probably been the biggest step in my life so far. Literally Stepping into the Gap in Blackpool: moving to a new area, not knowing anybody and starting a new life for a year. It has all worked out and I have had so many amazing experiences, made new friends and have met so many inspiring people, most notably in Cambodia with my fellow CAFOD gappers.

It has been great to play my small part in being able to share CAFOD’s work this year working in the Diocese of Lancaster and living within the parish at St John Vianney Presbytery. Working at St Mary’s as part of the chaplaincy team has been an absolute joy and I will have very fond memories of the team and the work we have achieved this year. My highlights include co-organising the 6th form Climate debate for CAFOD’s Speak Up campaign with guest MPs Paul Maynard and Gordon Marsden in October 2016. Leading sessions with Year 7s during form time about the Refugee crisis and the Lampedusa cross, and presenting assemblies to all college forms with the chaplaincy team on Justice January and CAFOD’s renewable energy campaign Power to Be.

The Cambodia visit in January was so inspiring and affirming for me of CAFOD’s work overseas. Previously in Devon I had fundraised a lot for CAFOD (over £7,000) never really knowing the impact such fundraising was having. Seeing first-hand the difference my parish fundraising had made over the years as well as all the collective impact of the Catholic communities’ support in England and Wales on the other side of the world in Cambodia was elevating.

Photo 1 CAFOD Gappers with Singha

CAFOD Gappers alongside their interpreter for their first week, Singha, former director of CAFOD Partner Village Support Group.

It’s an experience I will never forget. I have very fond memories of the Cambodian people we visited during our time in Battambang and Siem Reap who were so welcoming and CAFOD’s partners Village Support Group and Srer Khmer who we spent time with. On my return to the UK, the last few months of my placement have been about sharing CAFOD campaigns, fundraising and sharing the inspirational stories of the people I met and spent time with in Cambodia. In May I visited the CAFOD Plymouth Schools Volunteers to share about my Cambodia experiences and I also shared with parishioners after Mass at my old parish church in Tavistock.

As well as sharing my CAFOD Step into the Gap experiences this year with students, parishioners and CAFOD volunteers, I have also been able to share my gap year work with British and American Actors. In May I managed to share about my CAFOD gap year work with actress Hannah Spearritt (S Club 7) and actor Andrew-Lee Potts (from ITVs Primeval) at a comic convention in Huddersfield. In June I also shared with British actor Paul Blackthorne (TV show Arrow) and American actress Danielle Panabaker (TV show The Flash) at a convention in Blackpool. It has been a fantastic year of sharing CAFOD’s work with others, the important stories of the Cambodian people I met and my work as a CAFOD Gapper working at St Mary’s Catholic Academy in Blackpool.

More recently from the 7th to the 9th of July in Oxford the CAFOD gappers had a final weekend get together, for our final evaluation and celebration. The weekend was fantastic. Myself and the other gappers went out for a meal on the Friday evening which was an opportunity to catch up about our CAFOD work and the things we had been doing. On the Saturday we were joined by CAFOD staff Catherine Jones and Lucy Jardine who run the Step into the Gap programme as well as Sister Ann who is a part of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus who are one of the partners of the Step into the Gap programme.

 

Photo 2 Footprints of CAFOD Sharing

Prayers and representations of our CAFOD sharing across this year.

 

We began the Saturday morning with prayer and reflection, writing on cut-out hands the people who have made a difference to our lives this year. We also used cut-out footprints to represent the people we had shared CAFOD’s work with this year, thinking about the impact of our CAFOD sharing. On the Saturday evening we all went out for a final meal with Catherine, Lucy and Sister Ann to celebrate our accomplishments this year completing the Step into the GAP programme.

There are so many people I would like to ‘Thank’ this year so I will only mention a few. I would like to ‘Thank’ everyone at St Mary’s and the parish of St John Vianney as well as everyone involved with the Step into the Gap programme, especially Bishop Michael Campbell and CAFOD staff Catherine Jones, Lucy Jardine and Patrick Gardner. I would like to say a big ‘Thank You’ to Fr Peter Sharrock and Sister Ann for their support this year in Blackpool and I would also like to ‘Thank’ this year’s CAFOD Gappers: Rod, Charlotte, Sophie, Bridgid, Lizzie, Sophie and Hannah for making this year so memorable and amazing.

Photo 3 Gappers Together

CAFOD Gappers for 2016-2017 in Oxford

In terms of my future I am moving down to Somerset for the time being. I have gained so many skills and have had so many new experiences this year that I hope to be able to use these to eventually develop a career in a Catholic Diocese somewhere or to work for a charity in the development sector. I hope to be able to continue to put my Catholic faith into action building on everything I have achieved so far and I am excited about what the future holds for me.

Find out more about Step into the Gap.

 

 

 

Sun shines bright for Christ the King summer fete, in aid of CAFOD

The sun shone brightly down on Christ the King school in Preston last week for their first ever summer fete, which raised over £400 for the aid agency CAFOD.

CTK school council.JPG

School council members from Christ the King school, Preston at their summer fete

The day was a great success, and with a classic stalls such as ‘Splat the Rat’ and a coconut shy plus plenty of home-made tasty treats such as samosas and cakes, visitors were not short of things to enjoy.

Students and members of the community were queuing up to get beautiful henna designs on their hands, have their fortune told and, of course, to have a go on the bouncy castle!

henna 2.JPG

Henna

The event was entirely organised by the school council, who decided themselves that they would like to raise money for CAFOD.

Evelina, a pupil who is on the school council, said: “We really worked as a team to make this event, and we chose CAFOD as it’s a great cause.

“It’s our first summer fair and we’re really happy as quite a few people have turned up!”

Aaminah, a pupil who also sits on the council, said: “We’re all really happy with how it’s gone, and are proud to be supporting CAFOD.

“We just think it’s really nice to look out for others.  It’s a great cause and by doing this, we’ll help people all over the world.”

Music deskDamien Callagher, head teacher at Christ the King, said: “The work that we do for charity is at the heart of our school.  I’m so proud of the student council for the work they’ve put in to this event, and it’s great to be able to engage with the community in this way.”

We’re so impressed with the work everyone at Christ the King put into this event, particularly the school council, so well done for such a great event.

CAFOD is supported by over 5,000 volunteers across England and Wales who do everything from communicating CAFOD’s work to local journalists and newspapers, to educating pupils about social justice and organising campaigning and fundraising events. The agency has volunteer roles to compliment every talent and time commitment. Find out more at: cafod.org.uk/volunteer

 

 

Refugee Week 19-25 June

CAFOD supporters' messages of hope to refugees

CAFOD supporters’ messages of hope to refugees

This week, 19-25 June, marks Refugee Week, a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and encourages a better understanding between communities.

CAFOD supporters have a longstanding background of supporting refugees through our appeals, and joining us in standing in solidarity with those fleeing their homes and countries.

During the Year of Mercy, CAFOD volunteers and supporters from across the Lancaster diocese showed their support to refugees by sending them messages of hope.

Holy Family parish, Warton, CAFOD group

Holy Family parish, Warton, CAFOD group

In schools and parishes across Lancaster diocese, people came together to share their messages which have been received by refugees in many places across the world, including Calais, Athens, Lesbos, Lebanon, South Sudan and Colombia.

One particularly powerful message of hope, sent from one year eight student in our region, was: “If you are Christian, God will be with you.  If you are Muslim, Allahu Akbar.”

Fr Stephen blessing the Lancaster Lampedusa Cross at St Peter's Cathedral

Fr Stephen blessing the Lancaster Lampedusa Cross at St Peter’s Cathedral

This refugee week we keep those still seeking refuge in our thoughts and prayers and thank everyone who sent a message of hope. Your messages were received with gratitude.

We have written a prayer pilgrimage that can be completed with the Lampedusa cross in your own parish.  The prayer pilgrimage is an hour long but can be shortened, and finishes with parishioners writing their own messages of hope to show they are standing with refugees.

If you are interested in doing this, please contact your local volunteer centre on 01772 733310 or email lancaster@cafod.org.uk