St Vincent Primary, Houghton Regis, want to be Zero Heroes

CAFOD Education volunteers have been doing an amazing job in schools this term and Kate Banville, our wonderful Education Volunteer Coordinator writes:

“What better way to end the Harvest season than with a visit to such an engaged and enthusiastic school?

St. Vincent’s School in Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire, proved to be full of enthusiastic young minds working their way towards being ‘Zero Heroes’. All Year 3, 4, 5 and 6 students took part in workshops about how they can make their mark in their school, in their families and in the wider community, to reduce carbon emissions and pollution around the world, as well as to increase awareness and campaigning.

The whole school were also introduced to the story of Fabiano in Uganda and how his whole village has been helped by CAFOD to access clean and accessible water, using solar power to help pump the water from beneath the Earth’s surface. Year 6 volunteers were quite happy to carry 5 litres of water each across the room as the assembly came together, but their strength and determination waned somewhat as they began to realise the distance Fabiano used to travel several times daily to access clean water.

St. Vincent’s Head teacher, Karen Armstrong, reported: “The children had a fabulous morning. We are holding a ‘dress up brightly day’ this Friday to link in with the CAFOD assembly theme”. ”

A big thank you to St Vincent’s for inviting CAFOD into your school and to our wonderful Education volunteers Kate and Peter for delivering such brilliant sessions.  We look forward to hearing how you got on with the “dress up day”.

>  To be part of our amazing team of Education volunteers, get in touch :


St Bernadette’s – First school in Northampton diocese to achieve the LiveSimply award

Pope Francis, in his encyclical letter, ‘Laudato Si’ invites us all to ‘work with generosity and tenderness in protecting the world which God has entrusted to us’.  St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School, Milton Keynes, responded to that invitation and launched its LiveSimply action plan last year.  Pupils have been learning how to live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with those living in poverty.  Cathy Stormonth, CAFOD Education volunteer writes :

“St Bernadette’s has been spending the last year working towards achieving the LiveSimply Award.  The three significant areas were:

1)    To Live Simply – To develop an outdoor space for prayer and  contemplation.

The school built a beautiful prayer garden, designed by the Chaplaincy Team, featuring Our Lady of Lourdes and St Bernadette bought with the generous donation from the Sisters of the Holy Cross.  This is used every day for prayer and reflection. The children take great care of this special space and Year 6 pupils have created their own prayer wall within the garden. A team of pupils maintain the beautiful flower beds and ensure that it is always a calm, peaceful environment for their peers.

The prayer garden is accessible to the whole school community and has been a place of solace for pupils, parents and staff at times of difficulty or personal suffering.

Mrs Pughe, the school’s leader of RE and Catholic Life commented, “We are so blessed and privileged as a school family to have access to such an oasis of peace for prayer and contemplation within our school grounds”


2)    To Live Sustainably

The school’s eco-Mini Vinnies and the Junior Park Rangers have been so busy ensuring that everyone in the school community understands their responsibility in caring for God’s creation. They have promoted the regularly run ‘Switch off Fortnight’, community litter-picks and recycling across the school.  The school is now a paperless school when communicating with parents and is saving energy and reducing their electricity bill.  Eco-monitors make sure all electrical resources are switched off when pupils are not in the classroom and pupils are encouraged to tell others to do the same at home. Parents have even reported that their children have been spreading this important message to others outside of the school community!

St Bernadette’s is now using energy efficient LED lighting and has solar roof panels too.  It commendably has the lowest school electricity bills in Milton Keynes. The school has been praised by Milton Keynes Council and is used as an example of good practice for using sustainable energy.

Pupils have learnt how to grow their own fruits, vegetables and herbs; and how to cook healthy meals with their own produce. They have also grown their own flowers such as daffodils, marigolds and lavender which they sold to raise money for the school’s charitable work.

3)    To be in solidarity with those living in poverty and vulnerable.

St Bernadette’s school community places service at the centre of their mission. They are always looking for opportunities to support the vulnerable both within the local community and beyond. The SVP’s Make a House a Home project for young homeless families, the Winter night Shelter, MK Foodbank, a local care home and local dementia club are just some of the local charities that they support. They have also recently sponsored a guide dog puppy; supported the development of a school in Ghana; raised funds for a care home for sick children in South Africa and supported various CAFOD projects.


The LiveSimply Assessment

CAFOD volunteers, Peter Haddon and Graham Ryan visited the school on 1 October to collect evidence to make sure all three key aspects of the action plan had been carried out. They interviewed Mrs Pughe, Mrs Zamora – the Headteacher, representatives from the Mini Vinnies and Junior Park Rangers pupil teams and school parents. They also met with me.

They were impressed at their findings. It was a lovely opportunity to share and celebrate what St Bernadette’s had achieved.  What excited them the most were the plans for the following year which was to carry on and build upon the LiveSimply work they had carried out so far.

St Bernadette Primary (Milton Keynes) received the LiveSimply award

The school’s plans for the year ahead include:

  • Implementing a new wider curriculum focussing on our responsibility as citizens of the planet Earth, developing learning projects with children from the Ghanaian school they are supporting.
  • Introduce a new recycling scheme, recycling packaging that is not recyclable via the normal waste collection services. The school will reduce landfill, support the production of recycled plastic products and raise funds for Willen Hospice in the process!
  • Secure funding to construct allotments for pupils and families – promoting positive physical and mental health, sustainability and healthy eating whilst supporting the science and maths curriculum at the same time.


After a full morning of rigorous evidence gathering, the assessors were able to confidently conclude that St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School had achieved the LiveSimply Award.   A beautiful wooden plaque was presented to the school. This was displayed in pride of place in front of the school chapel.

Mrs Zamora declared, “I could not be prouder of our school. I particularly thank Mrs Pughe, the members of our staff’s, ‘Healthy Spirit Team’, the pupils who lead our Mini Vinnie Teams and our Park Rangers who have coordinated this aspect of our wider curriculum over the last two years. The feedback from the assessors was wonderful to hear and gave us the drive to find even more ways to Live Simply”.

When she announced the result to the whole school the following day, the school hall was full of cheers of joy. Every child and member of staff was delighted as they have all played a part in responding Pope Francis’ invitation to Live Simply.

Well done St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School!  What a fantastic achievement!  You have paved the way for other schools and parishes to take up the LiveSimply challenge too!

>> click here to see how your school and parish can take up the LiveSimply challenge

Thornton College Brightens up this Harvest!

This autumn is the 30th anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child and CAFOD Education volunteers have been going into schools to deliver assemblies and workshops on this topic.  Cathy Stormonth was one of them who went into Thornton College (Milton Keynes) to deliver an assemble and she writes :

”There are still children around the world who do not enjoy basic rights like a drink of water, enough food and the chance of an education.  We looked at the precious gift of water that very often we all take for granted.  I asked students why water was so important and How and why they used water? There was a sea of hands up and some of the responses were that they used water for showering, brushing their teeth, washing their clothes, flushing the toilet, drinking water, cooking and watering plants.

I gave they the shocking statistics that every 20 seconds a child under five dies from dehydration or the effects of drink dirty water!  This is why the CAFOD Autumn Term Harvest Fast day country focus is on providing water for communities in Uganda.

Uganda is a very beautiful country with snow-capped mountains and forests. It is also home to elephants, rhinos, lions and gorillas and the amazing Lake Victoria. Sadly one in four people don’t have access to clean fresh and safe water. That’s about 9.4 million people who live in isolated rural areas.

The students were shown the following CAFOD video about 13 year old Fabiano who live in rural Uganda.

Fabiano used to get up and leave home at 6am in the dark and walk 5km to fetch water for his family’s needs. It would take him over an hour for each trip and only then could he go to school. On some days he noted that other children in his village would be too tired and too dirty to go to school.  In short, children had very difficult lives just keep alive on minimal amounts of water.  But Fabiano loved school and was always determined to go to school after collecting his water and never missed a day of school.

Students were asked how they would feel in Fabiano’s place and the consensus was that they would be sad and fed up and it was not fair.  Two volunteer students who are 13 years old came to the front and tried lifting a 20 litre container of water. They agreed it was very difficult to lift and could not image what it would be like to carry it 5km. ‘It would be impossible!’ they said.

The real message here is that millions of children around the world have miserable lives which are spent collecting water which is often dirty or contaminated and can cause sickness. They are missing school and time to play and that’s not fair.  Every child has a right to has a right to water and a right to be educated.

What happened next?….

CAFOD installed a solar water pump in Fabiano’s village so now the whole community has access to clean water whenever they need it just a few minutes walk. Fabiano and his friends no longer need to walk many miles night and day to collect water. Fabiano has much more free time now and is growing vegetables. He’s a very happy young man. His life and his future are much brighter because of the solar water pump.

Thornton Students elected to Brighten Up by decorating their hair with an array of brightly coloured braiding and hair decorations on Family Fast Day, 4 October.  Students could also opt to have just soup rather than dinner.  The school will be making a contribution to CAFOD using the cost saving by having a simple soup supper.”

Thank you so much to all at Thornton College for participating in the CAFOD Harvest Fast Day and Brightening Up!  Thanks also to Cathy for raising awareness of the plight of so many living without water.

>>  To donate to our Harvest Fast Day appeal, click here