Walsingham House Advent Open Retreat

postersWe were delighted to be invited to run a CAFOD session during the Walsingham House Advent Retreat.

Assistant Retreat Director, Michael Barwick, started the session with a talk about his trip to the Philippines. Just as he finished his talk, the fire alarm sounded. A very organised evacuation took place.

The fire alarm was the start of the CAFOD session, looking at how CAFOD works in emergency situations. Whilst apologising for any distress the activity may have caused it was a good way to start a discussion about how the young people felt when they first heard the alarm, what was going through their minds. They were then set a task to think about what their immediate needs would be in a real emergency situation. As soon as shelter was mentioned we were allowed back into the retreat house! We then looked at how CAFOD provides shelter, sanitation, food and other necessities in a time of crisis. There was an interesting discussion looking at the impact of natural disasters occuring in more developed countries v less developed countries.

The session then moved on to World Gifts and after looking at how World Gifts work the groups were asked to come up with a World Gift of their own to help in the development of communities following an emergency. They also had to present their idea to the group.

Presents wrapped in bacon

Group “Presents wrapped in bacon” came up with the gift of Sport. Providing volley balls and nets, skipping ropes, basketballs and hoops, tennis rackets, nets etc and repair kits. The group stressed how this gift would have a focus on health, community, gifts and talents and also the possibility of developing young people to achieve proficiency in a sport that may enable them to progress beyond their local area.

Mindless Chickens

Group “Mindless Chickens” presented Happy Health Home – a health centre for a village with parental advice, local appointments, classes in health issues, jobs for local people, health training. They emphasised skill building for local people.

Unknown Bunnies

Group “Unknown Bunnies” decided on Sustainability Skills Training – teaching basic survival skills after a disaster, spreading ideas for others, reading, farming skills, building skills, languages and first aid. The plan would be to teach people to re-build homes, look at sustainable farming and first aid and then they would be available to go to other communities who need help.


Group “#10andahalfwomen” came up with Building Blocks for a New Generation. Teaching building skills, how to clear surfaces after a disaster, where to build safely and business skills. This gift would provide employment, education and improve the environment.

After a “clapometer” the winner was chosen as the Gift of Sport. One of the reasons given was that they were the only team to have costed their gift (as per instructions!)

At the end of the session, Retreat Director Jon Cornwall, announced that donations had been received during the year and that each group could have £28 to spend on real World Gifts. They were to use their tea break to come up with the gifts they would like to buy.

The groups decided to pool their money. Presents wrapped in Bacon and Unknown Bunnies bought the gifts of Livelihood, Reading and Health and #10andahalfwomen and Mindless Chickens bought gifts of livelihood and Lifesaving Treatment for a New Mum and Baby.

35 young people attended the retreat from schools and parishes throughout the Diocese.

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