Sheku from Sierra Leone visits us

ShekuThe Northampton Diocese welcomed Sheku Mark Kanneh (Livelihood and Disaster Risk Reduction programme officer – Sierra Leone) on the 13 and 14 July.  Sheku who has never been to the UK before, in fact he says “I have not been outside Africa before!”, was delighted to meet volunteers and supporters from around the Diocese.

Meeting at Sacred Heart

Meeting at Sacred Heart

CWL meeting

CWL meeting

He spoke at the Catholic Women’s League CWL) meeting at St Clare’s Aylesbury, as well as at Sacred Heart Northampton.  He showed the following horrendous statistics!


Sheku also shared his experience of what CAFOD did during the Ebola crisis. To help prevent the spread of Ebola, they focused on safe and dignified burial methods and engaged Faith Leaders in raising awareness.  Sheku said, “Ebola is still present in 2 out of the 12 districts with very few in the two districts still infected.”  This success won them the prestigious bond humanitarian award.  Well done to the team!

However, the effects of Ebola has not only affected education (all schools were shut for over year!) but people’s livelihoods.  “A lot of people did not farm and the regular hunger period which is about 4 months will now be well over 7 months” explained Sheku.  “But through your support, CAFOD will be able to help in this.”

Talking to Faith Leaders in Sierra Leone

Talking to Faith Leaders in Sierra Leone


Team carrying out Safe burial

Team carrying out Safe burial

Pat (CWL- Aylesbury) said that it was “an excellent talk and very informative”.  The CWL have given £30 towards the work of CAFOD in Sierra Leone.  What generosity from the CWL who have always supported CAFOD’s work!  Thank you so much.

Stella (parish contact – Sacred Heart Northampton) said, “We were all so impressed with Sheku’s talk – lots of food for thought. It was great that people came from other parishes; I think this is something we could build on.”  They too hope to raise funds for CAFOD’s work in Sierra Leone.

During his two days stay in the Northampton Diocese, Sheku was kept busy.  He met up with Fr Jonathan Hill (Holy Cross – Bedford) and with Jack the parish contact there.  He was so interested in and impressed by what parishes do to support CAFOD’s work.

Sheku with parish volunteer Jack

Sheku with parish volunteer Jack

Sheku with office volunteer Liz

Sheku with office volunteer Liz







He then met up with the office volunteers Dorothy and Liz and learnt about their important role.  He said, “I didn’t realise what you all do in the office.  So much support for us. Thank you”

Being invited for dinner at Frank and Val’s home made him feel so welcomed and happy.  He was thrilled rice was on the menu!  He also enjoyed the tour in Frank’s garden and even gave Frank some tips on how to get more crops!

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Sheku enjoyed beauty of the area and commented, “You have beautiful countryside here, your cows are so healthy and well looked after and you have so nice roads everywhere.”  When he was given his coach ticket that was purchased online that day he exclaimed, “whow, I can’t believe you can just sit at your desk and get everything so quickly!”


Sheku on his way to Heathrow

Sheku on his way to Heathrow

Sheku thoroughly enjoyed his stay in the Northampton Diocese and meeting so many wonderful volunteers and supporters.  “I am saying ‘Plenty Teinki’(many thanks) for all the care and support you gave me when I was with you and for our work in Sierra Leone.  I can see now what people in the UK do to help us and I will share my experience with our partners when I return.”


Day with Father Edu Gariguez

Group photo w Fr Edu 11Jul15

We were very fortunate to have Father Edu Gariguez speak to us at CAFOD’ HQ in London on the 11 July.  Since 2010 Father Edu has been the Executive Secretary of NASSA, National Secretariat for Social Action, which is part of Caritas Philippines.

Fr Edu said, “CAFOD is a major partner in our rehabilitation programme for communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.  The first part was relief and meeting immediate needs such as food. We have completed the first year of the recovery and rehabilitation programme. Now we are focusing on shelter reconstruction and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene).”  CAFOD is very involved in WASH. We work with Raphael Mutiku, CAFOD’s Emergency Programme Officer for WASH in the Philippines, who is our advisor. The programme is also for livelihoods and disaster risk reduction – it is a holistic programme. It will continue, but now we are more focused on empowerment and capacity building and moving into the arena of sustainability. There are really three areas for the programme:

  1. Building resilience
  2. Sustaining it
  3. The more transformative part of it, where we transition into development


Fr Edu Gariguez from the Philippines

Fr Edu Gariguez from the Philippines


How did you get involved in this kind of work?

Since studying at pre-school, I have been involved in campaigns. When I was a seminarian I was already involved in the issues of the poor and campaigning for the environment.

When I was ordained I requested to work and live with indigenous communities. Many mining companies threaten the livelihoods of the indigenous people as they are farmers. The damage is so great – I knew I had to campaign and I have since campaigned nationally and internationally against extractives.

I guess I am not the usual kind of priest. I am involved in protest movements, organising mobilisation and campaigns – but I also give mass!


Can you share an example of one of these acts of campaigning or protest?

I was given the Goldman Environmental Prize for being a grassroots environmentalist. We did a hunger strike against a government agency when the mining company had been given the go-ahead. I was one of the leaders of this hunger strike. It was a long struggle – and we won! We succeeded in stopping this mining company in our region. But really it is the people’s victory, I just happened to be part of the movement.


How do you find the differences between your work campaigning and your work on the rehabilitation programme?

Rehabilitation is also really challenging, but you see concrete examples of your work having an impact so it is more immediately rewarding. In campaigns the work is long. Even now we are still “waging war” against mining companies, but it is always gratifying and rewarding to see your results. The programmes I such a big project so we also need to manage and provide leadership, which is another level. But I’m learning! I’m happy to learn and I love challenges.

I do all of this because it is very clear to me that I am in the service of the people.


What do you wish to see for your region in five years’ time?

We are already trying to project what would be best for the communities in the years to come. We want to see the programme we started sustained. It should not only be dependent on the availability of funds. This is an opportunity to empower the people and strengthen the organisation and institution. Resilience is the long term goal for these communities.


We finished the day with mass.  Everyone found the day very inspiring and energising.


Local woman returns from eye-opening Lebanon trip

A humanitarian expert from Weston Favell village has returned home after visiting Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Anne Street, who works for CAFOD, saw the appalling conditions that refugees are living in at a makeshift settlement of some 20 shelters, that she said were “cobbled together from plastic sheeting, flour sacks and canvas”.

The trip was in liaison with Caritas Lebanon, who have been providing food, healthcare, mattresses, blankets, clothes and household supplies to Syrian refugees.

Anne, who was in the Bekaa Valley near the border with Syria, said: “When we arrived we were greeted by a queue of Syrian refugees lining up for an emergency distribution of food, household supplies and hygiene kits.

“One of my colleagues, a trained water engineer, went off to look at the water supply and soon came back reporting the only source was a murky, shallow hand-dug well for irrigating the surrounding fields.”

Although there are a growing number of tented settlements, most of the one million estimated refugees who have fled Syria’s conflict are housed in rented accommodation, unfinished buildings or in lodgings with host families. This has caused a growing strain on the local economy and on the Lebanese people who have opened their homes to the refugees. There is now pressure on resources such as water and sanitation, lack of school places, health facilities and, most of all, jobs.

Anne said: “I met two young children: Assifa, aged 11 and her younger brother Alaa, aged 9, who had arrived at the camp three days before, having fled Syria in an arduous five day journey after their house was bombed. Their mother and three younger siblings – aged 8, 7 and 5 – were all killed in the bombardment.

“Clearly still in shock, the children talked about their school, the friends they had left behind and the mother they would never see again.”

Without a parent or guardian, the children are especially at risk. Assifa is under the watch of a distant relative who said he was trying to feed these extra mouths as well as his own family by finding agricultural work and buying and selling fruits and vegetables. But he said his income was not enough to buy food for himself and his pregnant wife and family.

Anne added: “The people of Northamptonshire gave generously to CAFOD’s £1.5 million Syria Crisis Appeal, which has enabled us to support our partners at the front-line of the refugee crisis. Their work is inspirational. The support they are able to offer is a lifeline to the refugees. But this is not a tenable situation. We need an immediate resolution to the conflict and a halt on the flow of refugees.

“At the moment there is no end in sight to conflict. The UK Government should stop talking about sending arms to Syria, and instead step up the pressure for peace negotiations as soon as possible.”

To give to CAFOD’s Syria Crisis Appeal you can go online at or over the phone on

0500 858885.