CAFOD campaigner and MP correspondent Joe Howell (25), formerly a volunteer from the Brentwood Diocese, writes about our recent parliamentary reception and was encouraged to hear ministers and politicians speak about how important it is to actively campaign and raise issues with our local MPs.
On 27th April, I had the great pleasure of accepting an invitation to a Parliamentary reception event. I was just one of the many CAFOD MP Correspondents who had travelled to London, and for a fairly ‘average Joe’ such as myself, it was a fantastic evening, and one held in a rather grand setting that I would never normally get to see or experience.
I first started volunteering for CAFOD back in my late teens and then when I moved to University, I became an MP Correspondent. I have always wanted to support CAFOD, and so the chance to help out with their campaigns and to highlight our shared concerns by writing letters to my local politician seemed like a useful and sensible way of contributing. More to the point, it was convenient. I could write letters when it suited me, and as a student with never enough hours in the day (or night) to fit in countless sports matches, parties, naps, and the odd lecture, convenience was King. Having graduated into the world of work and moving around the country with different jobs, this point remains very true: being an MPs Correspondent is an easy and convenient way promote CAFOD’s work and to engage in the issues of your local area.
This event was a chance to celebrate and reflect on the work of CAFOD’s MP Correspondents. It was held at the Speaker’s Apartments in Westminster, which are beautifully adorned rooms, and provided a wonderful setting for the reception. We had the chance to invite our MPs along to join us, and it was lovely to see so many in attendance, giving up their own time to hear about CAFOD, to support us as their constituents, and thank us for the active role we play in their constituencies. After a chance to discuss the latest campaigns and to mingle with and meet MPs, fellow MP Correspondents, campaigners, and CAFOD staff, there were a series of speeches.
We were hosted by Mr Speaker himself, John Bercow MP, who opened proceedings with a very eloquent speech about the importance of active campaigners, and of engaging in charitable work, and that CAFOD’s concerns were issues that were cross-party in scope. He was followed by Lord Deben, who as Chairman on the UK’s Independent Committee on Climate Change, was not only vocal in his support for and thanks to CAFOD, but also highlighted the role of Laudato Si’ as an influence and an important call to action to protect our planet. He also made the salient point that MP Correspondents may regularly contact their parliamentarian with requests and campaign information, but that we should always be sure to thank our MPs when they do support us.
Following these two speakers we heard from Nick Hurd MP, Minister at Department for International Development (DFID), who addressed some of the concerns raised by CAFOD’s One Climate, One World campaign in reference to government projects to support solar power projects for communities in the developing world. Finally, we heard from Molly McCaffery, a student and former member of the CAFOD Young Leaders programme, who spoke about her experiences as a CAFOD campaigner, and as an MP Correspondent.
The key message made by all speakers, was that MP correspondents are crucial in highlighting issues that MPs may not be previously aware of. Through receiving personal letters, MPs are more compelled to respond (I have always received a letter in reply), and over time a relationship can be built, as the MP knows that you are an active and passionate part of their constituency.
I would urge others to get involved and to sign up to be an MP Correspondent with CAFOD. This evening highlighted the value, and the high regard placed on the role by MPs themselves and it is a great, easy way to support CAFOD.
You can watch a brief film on what MP correspondents do and the impact they have on legislation and policy below:
You can also watch a brief film on CAFOD’s 2016 parliamentary reception below.