An inspirational update from Myanmar

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 with friend James having their first cuppa in the UK

Ged (office Volunteer) explains about the Northampton Diocese to Julian

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.

Cake and tea – a lovely start to the evening

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 :

Julian – programme officer Myanmar

“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.

Julian explains about CAFOD’s work in Myanmar

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!

Disaster Risk Reduction – Myanmar

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.

Conflict transformation – training

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.

>> Find out more about our work in Myanmar

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.”

>> Visit our website to donate

An inspired group

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.

>>  Find out more about how you can put your faith into action

 

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!

Stats

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!

DSCN1523 DSCN1528

 

 

 

 

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.