Celebrating the impact and role of CAFOD’s MP Correspondents

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.


Joe in his fresh-faced days as a campaigner for ‘Hungry for Change’ at the 2012 Greenbelt festival


Joe after his fundraising boxing bout for CAFOD in 2015.

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.

MPC Speakers apartments-22 (002)

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow hosted the CAFOD parliamentary reception in the Speakers Apartments


Lord Debden, Chair of the Independent Committee of Climate Change

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.


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Two young MP Correspondents raise awareness of CAFOD’s ‘Power to the People’ campaign

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.


Julia runs the extra mile for CAFOD

St Bede’s (Chadwell Heath) parishioner Julia Galea, 60, took her place along 39,000 others last Sunday morning to take part in her second London Marathon. She raised £1700 for CAFOD and the Annabelle Rose Foundation.

On the chilly early morning of the 36th London Marathon, Julia Galea awoke before her alarm went off, a sign she thinks that she must have been well rested. She felt relaxed on the journey to the Greenwich Park starting point, but when she arrived she started to feel a bit cold and nervous. Now an ‘experienced’ marathon runner, Julia is used to the pre-race routine: dropping off her bags, putting her number put on her vest and the timing chip on her shoes.

A determined Julia sporting the distinctive green CAFOD badge on her vest

A determined Julia sporting the distinctive green CAFOD badge on her vest


The nerves subsided somewhat once she started to run and heard the bands playing uplifting music and people cheering and shouting out her name. All went very well and according to her time plan until she developed cramp at 19 miles which slowed her down. How am I to get through the last 7 miles, she thought to herself.

The encouragement of the crowd pulled her through and despite the problem of cramp, Julia managed to finish in 4 hours 18 minutes, just 2 minutes slower than her time last year. A remarkable achievement once again. Accompanied by her daughter to the CAFOD meeting place, all Julia wanted was a cup of tea and a shower. She got the tea but had to put up with just a foot bath to help revive her aching feet. Some kind soul did give her a very welcome leg massage though.

Another London Marathon done for Julia. Reflecting on her experience, Julia says, ‘So much preparation goes in the marathon and you need to cover many miles in training as 26.2 miles is a long run by anyone’s standards. I’m very proud of the achievement and to raise funds for CAFOD and the Annabelle Rose Foundation at the same time is very satisfying’. Will she back again next year? Julia is not forthcoming on this at the moment: ‘I shall be resting now for a while before I make a decision regarding any future marathons!’

Are you interested in fundraising for CAFOD? Join ‘Team CAFOD’ and take part in a sponsored event…


Pupils walk around the Olympic Park for CAFOD

Before breaking up for Easter, pupils at St Joseph’s Catholic School in Leyton have been busy fundraising for our Lent campaign to help families across the world have access to clean, drinking water.


Pupils at Quwwat-ul-Islam Girls School and St Joseph’s Catholic Junior school

The school have so far raised over £400 for people thousands of miles away by walking around the Olympic Park before breaking up for the Easter holidays.

Donate to our Lent campaign


Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

“The students and staff enjoyed the walk with St Joseph’s school and hope that they can collaborate in various projects, activities and fundraisers in the future.

Working together to help the community shows how united we all are. Together, we achieve more.”

Pupils and staff from St Joseph’s Catholic Junior School held a sponsored walk around the park, to support Catholic charity CAFOD’s  Lent fundraising appeal, raising awareness about how far people across the world have to walk for water.

All fundraising efforts for our  Lent  campaign will be doubled by the UK Government up until May.

All fundraising efforts for our  Lent  campaign will be doubled by the UK Government up until May.

As well as their sponsored walk, the school have been raising money every week, through cake sales and colour themed non-uniform days. Each class has a ‘money well’ which is a container filled with water and decorated with by pupils’ own paper water droplets, where the children have been donating their pocket money.

One pupil from St Joseph’s school said:

“We were walking during Lent to raise money for CAFOD. It was a good idea to walk around the park, despite it being so windy, as it helped us to experience what children in other countries experience when they have to walk to get their water.”

Children at waterpump

Right now, 650 million people are living without access to clean water. 2.5 billion people lack something as basic as a toilet and sewage system to flush away their waste. It is also estimated that women and girls spend 125 million hours a day collecting water, which means time away from work, school or playing with friends.

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Head Teacher, John Alexander said:

“It is very important that our pupils become aware of issues and problems that affect people, particularly children around the world. Through supporting international charities such as CAFOD the pupils gain a better understanding of their work in places such as Africa and Central America and how the money raised is used for long term relief. At St Joseph’s we want the children to learn beyond the classroom and truly become citizens of the world.”

The money raised by the school will give children, particularly girls, around the world a better chance of being able to go to school – girls such as 15-year-old Guti from Uganda.

Guti nearly dropped out of school because there was no clean, safe water and had to walk to the river for water to drink or to wash.

CAFOD partners were able to repair the water pump near Guti’s school, provided a portable sink and soap for handwashing, and trained teachers to help pupils learn good hygiene routines. This has meant fewer pupils miss school due to illness and some girls are taking high-school exams that only boys took before.

Over 100 pupils at Quwwat-ul-Islam Girls school’ in Newham, who are raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support joined alongside St Joseph’s Catholic school in solidarity.

Ms Suraiya Zannath, organiser, at Quwwat-ul-Islam Girls school said:”The students and staff enjoyed the walk with St Joseph’s school and hope that they can collaborate in various projects, activities and fundraisers in the future.

CAFOD’s representative in Leyton, Chris Driscoll said:

“Walking around the Olympic Park and joining our neighbours in solidarity is a fantastic idea. We are really grateful for all their hard work. On behalf of CAFOD, we’d like to say a huge thank you to the pupils at St Joseph’s for their generosity.”

Donate to our Lent campaign