Young CAFOD supporter talks about “Step into the GAP”

CAFOD has a wonderful Gap year programme in which young people have the opportunity to volunteer in the UK, gain experience, develop leadership skills and visit CAFOD partners overseas and the communities we work with.  This year Siobhan from Milton Keynes was fortunate to get into this programme and visited some of our projects in Sierra Leone. On her return, she was keen to share her experiences and has been into several parishes to do just that.  Northampton Cathedral was one of them and this is what she told us about her talk there on Sunday 24 June:

Speaking at Mass can seem daunting, but I soon realised that speaking about something which I am passionate about made those nerves disappear.


I wanted to share my experience of taking part in CAFOD’s Step into the Gap programme and the visit to CAFOD’s partners in Sierra Leone.  I explained about the landslide that killed over 1000 people and displaced thousands more in Freetown, and about the work that Caritas Freetown, one of CAFOD’s partners, is doing there. We had the privilege of meeting a group of young volunteers who cleaned and did minor repairs on people’s houses under the supervision of the partner.  This enabled residents to move back into their homes.

As a young person myself, I felt inspired to be proactive as a Catholic in achieving social justice, and as Oscar Romero said, we need to be God’s microphone.

I finished with a quote from Pope Francis in his letter to young people:  “make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls”


Many people stopped to speak to me after Mass to find out more about the Step into the Gap programme and asked about my year volunteering with CAFOD, which was really wonderful. ”

Thanks so much Siobhan for sharing your experiences and hopefully many more young people will feel inspired to be part of this vision – a world transformed to reflect the Kingdom of God.

Volunteer week – Celebrating our wonderful volunteers

CAFOD has many marvellous volunteers and one such person is Marie Pennell from the parish of St Teresa – Princes Risborough.

Marie Pennell – Parish volunteer, campaigner, Mp correspondent and Events organiser

Marie has been a volunteer here since 2002 and is the driving force behind the wonderful CAFOD group there.  She has been raising awareness of CAFOD’s work not only in her parish but in the wider community by campaigning in marches and sharing her experiences at supporters’ meetings.

Marie explains about CAFOD’s campaign

Tea and cake after Sponsored walk

In her parish, Marie is also an event organiser with her group. They organises regular CAFOD meetings, of which she has taken the role of being the chairperson many times.  Through these meetings they have done so much to support and promote the work of CAFOD in the parish and school.

Marie Pennell on a sponsored walk

Marie and the group have been the force behind the 3 annual fundraisers. These have  included an Easter sponsored walk opened to all ages (known to have reached 10k!), a summer BBQ and a Christmas fair (of which half of the proceeds go towards CAFOD).  The variety and timing of these events have not only made them very popular and well attended but made fundraising an accessible and enjoyable event.

Marie’s efforts are important within her parish and to us, as this melding together of social and educational events helps to raise awareness of CAFOD’s message. Many members of the CAFOD group have said that Marie is the “driving force who encourages and motivates us to carry out events in the parish”.


When asked why Marie became a parish volunteer she replied, “CAFOD represents the catholic church and has a good reputation abroad. Stretching our hands across the ocean to help our fellow communities is the least we can do.”  What a brilliant ethos!  Marie added, “CAFOD is very conscientious about spending, therefore, most of the donations go directly towards the cause to make a difference.  We trust CAFOD”.

The two fast days and emergency appeals are so well planned by Marie, the CAFOD group and their parish priest so that all have a chance of participating fully in them. For Fast days, Marie together with their parish priest ensure, where possible, someone gives the short talk so that all are thanked for their generosity and hear more about CAFOD’s work.  Envelopes are also handed out by others to encourage Gift Aid.  She has also used CAFOD’s prayers in the parish like the stations of the cross.  The parish always responds so amazingly!

Marie and the group reflecting on the Year of mercy with the Lampedusa Cross

Marie uses every opportunity she gets to encourage others (whether in her parish or not) to volunteer or participate in events or Fast Day. She is brilliant at this and her personality and smile has attracted many.  For supporters’ days held twice a year in the Northampton diocese, Marie urges people to attend and even drives some of them to the venue.  Now this is a really useful effort of Marie as through these meetings, people get a chance to hear more about CAFOD’s work, get inspired and share their experiences for the benefit of many.

Marie campaigning in London

Marie campaigning with other parishioners

As a great campaigner and an MP correspondent, Marie keeps up with relevant political issues and writes regularly to her MP on issues raised by CAFOD. She has encouraged many others to sign up to be MP correspondents as well and when an opportunity arises e.g. the Power to Be campaign, she invited her MP to come and meet the parishioners and hear more about their concerns. She is often seen at marches showing solidarity for our brothers and sisters living in poverty.  Her parish is now a Fairtrade parish as well.  Wonderful!

Parish obtaining Fairtrade status

Marie told us that her future plans are to incorporate more news from partners into her parish and to discuss campaign issue in more depth with the CAFOD group so that they can see how best to encourage others to campaign as well. Through these, she hopes to keep CAFOD’s work integrated into the life of the Church with both prayer and action and hopes that others will join the CAFOD group to put their faith into action.

Thank you Marie for being such an inspiring volunteer. We are very grateful to you for giving of yourself: your time, talents and skills to support CAFOD’s work for over 15 years.  You are a real inspiration!

Written by Isabelle – Media’s volunteer


Thank you message to our wonderful volunteers from the Director of Operations

Our CAFOD volunteers have been the back bone of our work and we want them to know just how much their volunteering has made a difference to many living in injustice and poverty.  During Volunteer Week, we have a Thank You message from Geoff O’Donoghue, Director of Operations :