A guest blog written by Monica Nyazika, Year 12, Cardinal Newman Catholic School
On Tuesday 25 March, 42 sixth form students from all over Britain gathered at the CAFOD headquarters in London with two things in common – their love of politics and their faith.
Once everyone had arrived we were given a detailed tour of the beautiful and contemporary cathedral that stands tall next to the modern Romero house, where the awe-inspiring work of CAFOD takes place. If you’re wondering what the inside of Romero house looks like, you simply have to imagine the Mode building from Ugly Betty – but a lot greener and happier. There were plants in every corner, a balcony on the top floor and a roof that collects and filters water which is then used to flush the toilets.
In the Mode-like building we were shown how CAFOD staff work tirelessly from their desks, powered by steaming coffee, to help their colleagues on the front lines of the war against injustice and hunger.
The tour was followed by workshops on media training, CAFOD’s Hungry for Change campaign, and the structure of Parliament. As well as getting to know more about our government we also got to know each other. Then in the evening we bonded under London skyline and ate pizza from Papa Johns. In this relaxing atmosphere we reflected on the day we had just spent together and prayed for strength for the day to come.
After a hearty breakfast in a nearby youth hostel we set out for Parliament. When we emerged from the London Underground we had one thought in our minds: “Must lobby MPs!”
Next on our list of things to do was to pass parliament security, which after the hostility of the Tube was a walk in the park. We were then invited into the chambers of the Speaker of the House of Commons, where we were all star-struck. It was here that we met Mr Speaker himself and the questions seemed to roll off our tongues. There was nothing stopping us, except for the Speaker having to prepare for Prime Minister’s Question Time.
After this we were given a whistle-stop tour of the Houses of Parliament, as it was almost time to watch Prime Minister’s Questions. Some of our group were going to watch this from the public box and others from a separate room. It was then that we found out that a few of us, myself included, had been given tickets to watch the debate from the Speaker’s private box!
As we all watched, David Cameron and Ed Miliband antagonised one another while debating the economy, with MPs cheering them on. Surprisingly, all the bickering helped the political juices within us to flow and soon enough we were ready to lobby our MPs.
Some members of our group had managed to arrange a meeting with their MP in a separate room. The remainder sat down in our very own debating room with ministers such as Tom Clarke, George Howarth, Jim Dornan and several other MPs. We discussed topics from poverty in Britain to poverty abroad and it was inspirational. Even as a young person myself, seeing so many young people just like me join together to serve a common purpose was amazing.
So as we all headed back to Westminster station, we said farewell to one another with hearts full of sadness as we had all bonded so well. However, we were also full of pride for what we had achieved and full of hope for what we could do in future.
Year 12, Cardinal Newman Catholic School