A very special pilgrimage – X

The final day and return to the UK.  What an experience this has been for the pilgrims.

Last breakfast served by our lovely ladies

Daily exercise – 89 steps to and from the bedroom

After the usual 89 steps ascent and descend from her room to the dinning room for the last breakfast served by the wonderful ladies the group pack and leave the Centro Loyola.  The gardeners stop what they are doing to help the pilgrims.. what thoughtfulness and kindness of the people!

Armed guard at gate

Walk down the steep hill to the guarded gate to wait for coach

There is a steep hill from the Centro Loyola building to the gate (guarded by an armed guard) Debbie is not only physically feeling better but is also inspired and hopeful, keen to share her experience with people back in the UK.

Traffic on the way to the airport

Barbed wires used in many places

The traffic getting to the airport was the usual bumper-to-bumper ride.  Lots to see on the way.  Interesting that so many properties had barbed wires to keep people out and the country will not go short of tyres with the number of tyre shops there are!

The group were pleased to see that the airport also kept Romero alive… even if it is a mouthful.

Great to see the airport named after Romero

Debbie reflects on her pilgrimage

“I was expecting to learn more about Blessed Oscar Romero and visit a few sites and pray there but what I experienced was life changing.  I encounter much more than my expectations.  I met great fellow pilgrims with similar vision.  I met the wonderful people of El Salvador who taught me what to be community.  To give till it hurts and not count the cost, not to seek revenge but still have hope and strength in the fight for justice.

I heard of and encountered so many brave and courageous people.  They were joyful in the little things and were thanking and praising God at each opportunity.  In a land where such injustices and horror have taken place, the hand of God is visibly at work.  What great faith the Salvadoreans have!”

Julia and family keen to share their work with us

Feeding the pilgrims with such love

“Seeing CAFOD’s partners working with the people was wonderful.  I was so overwhelmed by the strength and desire of the community to change their lives, not to rely on hand-outs.  Such dignity and pride in what they did to get out of the clutches of poverty.  Amazing attitude!

“I shall do as Sr Martha asks and share my experience and stories so that I too can stand in solidarity with the people to give voice to the voiceless .”

 >> Find out more about the Romero Trust 





CAFOD diocesan staff show their support for Fairtrade

CAFOD coordinators from Northampton, Clifton, South Wales, Plymouth and Birmingham dioceses were keen to let Sainsbury’s know how they felt about Sainsbury’s ditching the Fairtrade mark on their own-brand tea.  After a regional meeting the group signed the petition and took it to the local Sainsbury’s store.

>> Download the letter to Sainsbury’s store manager

CAFOD regional staff campaign for Fairtrade outside Sainsbury

Sainsbury’s is the largest retailer of Fairtrade products in the UK, they’ve decided to abandon Fairtrade certification on some of their own-brand tea products and pilot their own scheme instead, known as ‘Fairly Traded’.

Tea farmers in Africa have publicly opposed the move away from the Fairtrade mark as it takes away their power to decide where to invest the Fairtrade Premium in their communities.

>> Find out more about Sainsbury’s dropping Fairtrade

Debbie Purfield (Northampton coordinator) said, “We are concerned that this new ‘Fairly Traded’ tea could mean an unfair deal for poor farmers and we wanted to stand in solidarity with them and join our voices with theirs.”

The group shared their feelings with the store manager who was keen to know more about Fairtrade.  She said she would pass it on to higher management.

>> Please sign the online petition asking Sainsbury’s not to ditch Fairtrade!


Country Reps share their stories

We held a day of reflection and sharing on the theme of encounter and dialogue which volunteers and staff together with three Country Reps (CR):

  • Dominic Carroll – CR for Bangladesh and Afghanistan based in London,
  • Kayode Akintola – CR for Sierra Leone and Liberia based in Freetown
  • Conor Molloy – CR for Ethiopia based in Addis Ababa.

It was a great opportunity to share stories and experiences and learning about our partners and their communities.

>> Find out more about CAFOD’s work

Susy Brouard from theology facilitated the day and we started off with reflecting on the gospel passage and paintings of the anointing of the Jesus’ feet.  Our three CRs were then invited to share stories

Kayode shares his stories

Kayode mentioned how difficult it was for him to return to Sierra Leone with his family when the Ebola crisis happened. What changed his mind was the local people saying to him “are you going to abandon us too?”  as most people had.  He was moved to return and help them.



Conor explained how CAFOD’s work was not only dealing with the drought in Ethiopia but also very much involved in dialogue with the tribes who were fighting each other in the south – peace building. He also spoke of spoke of capacity building there.

Conor listens to Volunteers

It was also really good to hear how, due to the support from charities like CAFOD, the number of deaths due to drought in Ethiopia has fallen significantly over the years, from over 1 million in 1984 to about 23 in 2010.  Droughts still exist but due to capacity building and disaster risk reduction techniques mortality rates have fallen significantly!


Dominc hears from staff and volunteers

Dominic was thrilled to informed the group that caritas Bangladesh had recently been invited to be a member of the START network with CAFOD’s support as CAFOD is a member.  This means that they can now go directly and access funds from donors without going via CAFOD hence empowering them!  Fabulous!



We shared our stories in groups and after a shared lunch all three CRs shared more of their very interesting stories after we had reflection on the Gospel story of the Canaanite woman.

Rose with the country reps Conor, Kayode and Dominic

Rose Bluett (Volunteer coordinator for Luton) and Cath Palsz (Parish volunteer – Our Lady of Peace Burnham) who were present said they felt it was a very interesting and worthwhile day with a lot of food for thought.