Family Fast Days……How did they all begin??

Gloria Turner has been an office volunteer for CAFOD Brentwood since September 2017. Here she shares her findings on how CAFOD Family Fast Days began and what fasting means to her.

Having been involved in recent weeks with preparations for the approaching Lent Fast Day  I decided to find out more about why we fast and how Fast Days began.  What I discovered about the First Fast Day is an inspirational story.


Mother and Baby clinic in Dominica 1960

I was interested to learn that it all began with 2 women, Jacquie Stuyt and Elspeth Orchard, responding to a request from the people of the Caribbean island of Dominica to help raise funds for a mother-and-baby clinic.

They came together with others from the National Board of Catholic Women, the Catholic Women’s League and the Union of Catholic Mothers to organise the first Family Fast Day in 1960.


Jacqueline Stuyt and Sr Alicia, original volunteers for fundraising for the mother and baby healthcare clinic in Dominica

On Friday 11 March 1960 the group of Catholic women asked everyone in the family to make an act of self-denial. They asked children to give up  sweets and for their parents to make just one main cheap meal for the family and give the money they saved to feed people who were hungry.

Who would have believed that such a simple idea would have such a huge impact around the world as this remains at the heart of CAFOD Family Fast Days today.

The organisers expected to raise just a few hundred pounds, but the Catholic community responded with amazing generosity, donating more than £6,000 – the equivalent of £96,000 today.  Imagine how thrilled these groups of women must have been with that response!

“We weren’t doing anything special, we were just doing what we thought we ought to do, remembering that we are all God’s children.” Elspeth Orchard


The group of women who organised the first Family Fast Day in 1960

As well as funding the new clinic, the project also helped people to survive and make a living for themselves, including providing water and teaching people how to plant vegetable gardens. This determination to tackle the root causes of poverty and help people fulfil their potential is still at the heart of everything CAFOD does.

CAFOD Family Fast Day has always been as much about prayer as about giving. Elspeth Orchard explained:

“We were very keen that we should do it not just as a giving thing, but as a praying thing. We should really make an effort to remember people, not just by giving them food, but by doing what we could do to support them”


Opening of the centre in 1964

So this amazing story has shown me what can be achieved by a small group of people wanting to help others.  CAFOD has grown from just two women, Jacqui and Elspeth, fundraising by encouraging fasting, to the great charity organisation it is today.

My attitude to fasting is very different now compared to the days when I “gave something up for Lent” when I was growing up.

Fasting allows me to:

  • reflect on how fortunate I am in always having sufficient food
  • be more aware of those who don’t have enough food and to symbolise an act of solidarity
  • slow down my pace of life to spend more time in reflection and prayer
  • remember how fast days began with that small group of women in Dominica

We fast not only to donate money saved to those in need but also to set aside time to pray for them.  It is also a time for reflection of our own lives and lifestyles.

 “While the world around us may have changed, our efforts and values remain the same: to act, through our faith, to transform the lives of those most in need. Poverty is not part of God’s plan – we believe a better world is possible.” Chris Bain, CAFOD’s Director


I did not know how Fast Days began before I started volunteering for CAFOD.  For me, from now on, Fast Days will always bring this great story to mind and I will be much more aware of how small sacrifices from me can help other families to live more fulfilled and sustainable lives.






Help us fight hunger and malnutrition in Zimbabwe this Lent Fast Day.

Marjorie Henrie, an office volunteer in Southwark volunteer centre, shares what she has discovered about hunger and malnutrition in Zimbabwe after reading the CAFOD Lent Fast Day briefing. She also describes how it inspired her to want to take part in Fast Day in her parish.   

Photo - Thom Flint Marian stands with other members of Chinyama community veg garden with her twomonthold baby girl Talent

Marian stands proudly with other members of Chinyama community vegetable garden, holding her two-month-old baby girl Talent.

I was so choked to hear that across the world, malnutrition still kills almost three million children every year! I had absolutely no idea about this.  It is so sad to hear that for children who survive malnutrition, the effects can be long-lasting. Lack of the rightfood can stunt growth and even if children have a good diet in later life, the effects of early malnutrition remain. Imagine…. into adulthood, many undernourished children never reach their full height potential.

It was fascinating then to hear that in Zimbabwe the collapse of the economy, combined with changes in the climate have led many in the country struggling to feed themselves over the last few years.  And very sad to know that in Zimbabwe, one in four children under five have stunted growth from not getting enough good food.

Marian's family

(From L to R) Tawanda, Kiniel, Svondo (boy in blue t-shirt, front row), Marian holding baby Talent, Tafara (girl in checked skirt


However our support for CAFOD’s response means we can do something about it. I was touched with Marian’s story about her children.

To think that, when she’d leave her son Tawanda in the morning while she went looking for work, he would still be sitting in the same place hours later, is terrible.


planting veg seeds

CAFOD gave Marian vegetable seeds, nutrition and farming training, and fenced off a community vegetable garden to keep it safe from livestock

And to know that Marian’s youngest son, Svondo, is healthy and growing well compared to when Tawanda was his age because of CAFOD giving Marian vegetable seeds, nutrition and farming training, makes me feel it is worth taking part in Lent Family Fast Day in my parish.

Of course UK-AID’s commitment to match all donations up to 5 million pounds means that all our efforts can be doubled… how moving.

If you want to hear more about Lent Family Fast Day 2018. Zimbabwe and CAFOD’s response:

  1. Join your local Lent Family Fast Day Briefing
  2. Watch our film for more information
  3. Read our resources online

Hair raising fun at St John Payne’s 2017 CAFOD Fair!

Year 13 Students at St John Payne school in Chelmsford take part in organising a CAFOD Fair each year to fundraise for our work in overseas development, emergency relief and advocacy.

Lots of fun, sweet things and exciting activities were on offer including hula-hooping, icing biscuits, leg-waxing, ‘pin the nose on Rudolph’, home-made cake and sweet stalls, and mugs of hot chocolate and whipped cream!

Over the years this annual event has raised a lot of money for CAFOD with 2017’s fair raising over £350!

This year they were also raising awareness about our ‘Power to Be’ campaign, in which we are calling on  the World Bank, to shift the balance to support renewable energy which tackles poverty, so everyone can have the chance to fulfil their God-given potential.

We’d like to send a big ‘thank you ‘to all the students and staff who organised and took part in the fair for your continuously generous commitment to our work.


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