A ‘gapper’ reflects on a forthcoming visit to Sierra Leone

Chris Burkette is a young person who is currently on our Step into the Gap Christopher BurketteProgramme  Here he shares his thoughts as he prepares for his upcoming visit to Sierra Leone:

Journeying, travelling, moving. All words to describe some form of momentum. We all journey: it may be as simple as a commute from A to B or as exciting as travelling away on an exotic family holiday abroad.

There are broader journeys we all walk along; such as the journey of life from birth to death – this being our greatest adventure. And there are other journeys we may experience such as the journey of faith which trickles into other aspects of our lives.

A tropical vista in Sierra Leone

One such journey I shall engage in is a trip overseas to Sierra Leone with CAFOD. I shall walk alongside locals, gain insight into CAFOD’s projects and then share with communities upon arrival back in the UK. CAFOD’s Step into the Gap programme (whose participants are sometimes called ‘gappers’) gives a sparkling opportunity to give young volunteers time to get involved and look at life through the eyes of others.

Sierra Leone 1

Villagers and CAFOD’s partners in Sierra Leone

The programme also holds in its hand the rare chance to deepen your faith through being inspired by those you meet and then taking inspiration from stories and personal experiences back to family and friends after the visit.

A central focus of the trip is the experience of an encounter that goes beyond the face-value sharing of personal stories and communication of lifestyle within faith. This is what CAFOD hopes all gappers will experience during the trip.

My personal experience of faith within the context of a journey starts from when I was very young. After Baptism, my parents would encourage me to go to church each week. After I made my First Holy Communion, I wanted to become an altar server which I continue to do at my weekly.

From this time, I was introduced to my local youth service within the Brentwood Diocese where I came to find a multitude of opportunities for young people ranging from not only altar serving to performing music in mass but also serving others around me.

This urge to help those around me grew in my heart for some time, eventually leading me towards Walsingham House and the work of CAFOD in the Step into the Gap programme.

“CAFOD gives a sparkling opportunity to give young volunteers time to get  involved and look at life through the eyes of others.”

Now at the point of the Sierra Leone visit clearly in view with merely days to go, I am filled with anticipation, excitement and wonder while also filled with slight apprehension.  How will people react to my presence there? Will it live up to expectations? Most of all though… how will I communicate the stories of those I meet to people upon my arrival back home?

Chris with the team of 2017-18 ‘gappers’

I ask you to pray not only for me but also for all the other gappers. May we be safe and gain inspiration from all those we encounter. As always – God bless you and continue to spread the Gospel.

CAFOD’s gap year programme is an opportunity to volunteer in the UK, gain experience, develop leadership skills and visit an international CAFOD partner.

Applications for CAFOD’s gap year programme are open. For anyone aged 18 – 30: an opportunity to volunteer in the UK, gain experience, develop leadership skills and visit CAFOD partners overseas. The deadline is 19th February. For all information and how to apply visit www.cafod.org.uk/Education/CAFOD-Gap-year or contact Catherine Jones 0207 095 5308 cjones@cafod.org.uk

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