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.

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 :

Celebrating our long-standing volunteer Maureen Borbone

CAFOD was delighted to be able to celebrate with Maureen Borbone for her services as a volunteer for over 30 years! We had a special Papal blessing and Bishop Peter wrote a lovely thank you letter from the diocese.

Deborah presenting the Papal Blessing to Maureen

As Maureen hasn’t been well, Deborah Purfield (CAFOD coordinator Northampton) arranged for these to be presented to Maureen in her home saying, “Maureen doesn’t like a fuss at the best of times and I feel going over to her home with a few people would be better”.

Maureen has done lots not only in her parish of Holy Family and St John’s Luton, but around Luton and so it was wonderful that her friends and family were present to celebrate her years of devotion and support.  We had representatives from the parish, from Grassroots in Luton where she is heavily involved in, fellow volunteers as well as her sister, Bernadette.

Maureen Borbone delighted with her Papal Blessing for over 30 years of volunteering for CAFOD

Maureen has been promoting Fast Days at Holy Family and St John’s Luton for many years.  She started the “Bag of blessings” for Lent where people were handed bags at the start and Maureen collected their offerings at the end of the Lenten period which has gone to help further CAFOD’s work.  She was also a main instigator in organising the parish soup lunches which have drawn in lots of people from the parish and beyond.  These have raised a considerable amount for CAFOD over the years!

Not only has Maureen attended numerous CAFOD supporters’ days but has gone the extra mile to encourage others to come along with her by offering them lifts. On several occasions, she has also packed her car with Fairtrade goods to set up a stall at the event.

Maureen keen to get all to support Fairtrade

Being a very keen Fairtrade supporter, you can always see her using every opportunity to encourage people to support it.  For example, when we went to present her with her papal blessing, she was very keen to have us sign her petition to Sainsbury’s to ask them to move back to selling Fairtrade tea which they have moved away from.


>> Find out more and Sign the petition to Sainsbury’s

Maureen has also been a voice for the voiceless and has supported numerous CAFOD campaigns over the years.  She has raised awareness of the plight of those living with injustice and is a wonderful evangelist of the Gospel.

Sr Maire presented Maureen with a letter of thanks from Bishop Peter Doyle and which Maureen read out to all present.  She was moved to tears at its content.

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We thank God for you Maureen and for all you have done in your quiet yet very effective way over the years.  As Bishop Peter said in his letter, “ without people like you, the root causes of poverty cannot be tackled.. (we) want to thank you for all the years you have stood on the side of those living in poverty and for your great service to the Lord and His Church.  You are a wonderful example and witness to our Catholic faith in action and a great inspiration.”

>> Find out how you can volunteer for CAFOD