We were thrilled to have Julian Pinzon Godoy, CAFOD’s Programme Officer for Myanmar (formerly Burma), visit St Teresa’s parish in Princes Risborough on 6 June 2017 to give us an update of CAFOD’s work there while in the UK.
Julian visited the CAFOD volunteer centre first and was delighted to meet up with Debbie Purfield (Coordinator – Northampton diocese) and the office volunteers. Ged Nolan explained a little about the diocese which fascinated Julian. We were also pleased to have Julian’s friend, James, who accompanied him for the visit.
What better way to start the evening than to enjoy a chat over tea and cake! The CAFOD group at St Teresa’s were up to their usual standard of producing a marvelous selection of home baked cakes and our guests thoroughly enjoyed it. Julian commented, “this is the first tea I have had since being in the UK and it is great! The cakes are so delicious! I know the people back in Myanmar would love to hear about this and I shall be sharing it with them.”
Betty Cresswell (member of the CAFOD group) writes :
“What an enlightening evening it was! CAFOD was asked to help in Myanmar in 1993 and such was the need that in 1994 the country was rated a priority for aid. There are 130 different ethnic groups in the country and 25% of the population lives below the poverty line. Education is very limited and of poor quality. Unless the children speak Burmese there is almost no hope of them receiving any significant schooling. Among the ethnic groups living around the perimeter of the country there is a variety of languages and dialects, no money and very few if any teachers. Without outside help this situation will probably never change.
Rural poverty is almost the greatest challenge. The communities that border India and Bangladesh have no schools, no medical facilities, no electricity and very little, if any, safe water. The yearly monsoon destroys the lives of the poorest communities almost every year. We were shocked to hear that the people have to rebuild their homes, often from scratch, at the end of the season, and all without government help!
CAFOD saw the need to work to support the community and promote inclusivity and equality among the people. It was essential to teach the rural communities about climate resilient agriculture and how to be better farmers. It was equally important to work for peaceful co-existence with the many other communities. CAFOD set up discussion groups and peace conferences to stop fighting amongst the many ethnic and religious groups and put a great deal of effort into working with the youth of the country to promote these values. This all still goes on and is a slow process.
Fortunately the Catholic priests are seen as important leaders of communities. The Church has a good structure within the country with one cardinal and sixteen bishops working together with over four hundred priests.
The money that we raise goes to help with planning of events necessary to get people together to promote the improvement of life for all and to enable the locals to build capacity and improve their lives. This is making a great difference. Whilst there is an improvement in the new government under Ang San Suu Kyi, change is slow and CAFOD expects to be in the country for a long time to come.
Julian’s work in Myanmar isn’t to sink wells or dig fish ponds, but to journey alongside our partners providing support and encouragement. Bringing together, training and empowering local groups and community leaders to speak out and work on issues that matter most to people on the ground.
It is the expertise that CAFOD staff can offer that is so essential and useful to them all and is already improving lives. The challenge is great and they really need out support and prayers.”
Marie Pennell, parish contact, said, “It was great to hear about the situation in Myanmar first hand and it inspires us to want to do more to support our brothers and sisters there!” The group is already planning to hold an event during the week of action.
Thank you to the CAFOD group at St Teresa and all those who attended the evening. A big thank you to Julian for giving such an inspiring and thought-provoking session. We know he will pass on our thoughts and prayers to our brothers and sisters in Myanmar when he returns.