Meet Christopher, our new gap year volunteer

Christopher is from Essex and recently has finished his A-Levels in Psychology, Religious Education and Biology. At St Thomas More High school, he started a Fairtrade group which inspired him to join CAFOD’s Step into the Gap programme. He will be based at Brentwood Catholic Youth Services at Walsingham House and is the first CAFOD gap year volunteer there. He believes it is difficult for one individual to make a significant difference, but that with many it is possible. In his free time, he is actively involved in music, especially the violin. 

Christopher Burkette

Christopher Burkette at Romero House

Hello! Over the next year I am going to be doing a placement at Walsingham House in Brentwood diocese in the South-East of England. I have been previously involved with the work of CAFOD, including the campaign One Climate One World.  This is such an important topic, more today than ever as the effects of climate change appear so prominently in the world around us. For me it is important for us to care for the world around us – it was given to us by God as a gift, one we must be stewards of, pay special attention to and care for.

I joined the Step into the Gap programme due to my desire to really help people in the wider world around me – I felt the programme would give me an opportunity to make a real difference! This was joined with the fact that I have always taken an interest in the work of CAFOD. I wanted to be a part of it – in some way acting to represent the values set by CAFOD – not just in work but in my everyday lifestyle. I think that many people don’t fully grasp how far-reaching CAFOD’s work is and the number of people’s lives which are transformed completely through the action of CAFOD and their partners. I can be very vocal and so feel that the Step into the Gap programme is helpful for me spreading this message of love to others and act towards visible change!

Over the approaching months I think I will find both strength and motivation from spreading the word on world issues such as climate change and social justice. I am excited at the prospect of communicating these issues with people I encounter on retreat, friends and even those I live with inside my local community. I really feel a deep passion for this form of work, that I will be able to discuss with others around me!

The Step into the Gap programme for me is rooted in Faith so allows me a chance to deepen my Faith, Spirituality and understanding of serving God through love of neighbour and of self. I aim to spread the word of God through CAFOD and preach God’s love of creation and humanity. I also look forward to walking alongside other people on the programme, both physically and spiritually, over the year.

In particular I wait in anticipation of the trip to one of CAFOD’s partners overseas. I’m looking forward to viewing the world through the eyes of the people there and seeing how they live; this will create in me a well of gratefulness that I can then share with people when I get back to the UK.  I’m also looking forward to sharing my own journey, such as that of my faith, with locals. The memory of it alone will be something I can’t wait to share with people afterwards. I believe that it is sharing people’s stories that triggers change; they can create an inward change of how others see the world.

I would like to also be an active part in this process of social change. I think that one of the unique parts of the Step into the Gap programme is the link between my placement in Walsingham House and the programme more generally – I’m looking forward to the mix between the activities of retreat sessions and those at CAFOD. I believe that getting the balance could prove to be one of the great challenges of this year.

I can only say that I am filled with a combination of joy and excitement when considering the journey that I and others on the programme will undertake this year – a period of both personal growth and helping the growth of everyone, everywhere that we go. I pray at this time for God’s blessings not just on me but all of the other people within the Step into the Gap programme for endurance, courage and the chance to use their skills to the best of their ability.

Young CAFOD supporter receives award for his efforts to help those in need

CAFOD supporter Rosen Bello has received an award for his efforts to help vulnerable people in need. Rosen, aged 14 and from Beckton, was given the Brentwood Diocese School’s Citizenship Award for his continuous efforts to raise money for the aid agency CAFOD.

Rosen’s fundraising efforts began when he was 12.  He was keen to join CAFOD’s Young Leadership Scheme but, as the scheme is for pupils aged 16 and over, he was too young. Unperturbed, Rosen took matters into his own hands.  With the help of his mum, Nicole, he organised a community ‘Fun Day’ in Dagenham where there was a BBQ, community games and a sweet stall.  Inspired by his first foray into fundraising, Rosen went on to organise another Fun Day in Plaistow last September and in March Rosen, his cousin and younger sister sold cookies for CAFOD’s Lent campaign.

Rosen Bello and cousins

His enthusiasm for fundraising and supporting those in need did not go unnoticed by those around him.  Having been recognised for his selfless nature with the Jack Petchey award last year, which recognises achievement in young people, he was then nominated for a Diocesan award.  Rosen, who said he was surprised and proud to receive the award, was presented with it during a mass at Brentwood Cathedral led by Bishop Allan.

Rosen said:

“We should support CAFOD because we’re privileged being born in this country and should do something to help others.  We were born in a country with lots of resources so we should do what we can for people in countries who don’t have the things we do.”

Nicole, Rosen’s mum, said:

“I like to support him with his ideas. When he tells me his plans, I tell him ‘I’m behind you’.  I want to support his passion.”

The money raised by Rosen will help those living in extreme poverty to reach their full potential, regardless of religion or culture, by equipping them with the skills and opportunities to live with dignity, support their families and give something back to their communities.

Rosen’s desire to stand in solidarity with those in need shows no sign of flailing; he’s organising another Community Fun Day in Plaistow – this time over two days – on the 8th and 9th July.

It’s inspiring to see young people like Rosen taking the initiative and doing all they can to raise money for those in need.  People often bemoan the apathy of the youth but Rosen completely contradicts this notion.  His drive and enthusiasm is fantastic to see.  Thanks for all you do, Rosen!

Local Wickford student travels to parliament to ask MPs important questions before the general election

 

CAFOD supporter Kiera Harman, 17, travelled from Wickford to Westminster to speak with MPs in Parliament to ensure the interests of the world’s poorest people will be kept in mind during the upcoming general election.

On Monday 24 April, sixty supporters of CAFOD travelled from across the country to meet with MPs from different political parties at Speaker’s House in Parliament. Kiera Harman met with the politicians to speak about maintaining commitments to supporting people living in poverty through UK aid and action to tackle climate change.

young leaders2

Young Leaders at Parliament showing their support for CAFOD’s new campaign

Speaking at the event, Kiera said: “It’s important to be here to talk to MPs so we can get them to understand the things that matter to us. I study government and politics at A-level and I’m really interested in politics, so this is a good opportunity to get more connected. I also want to ask my MP what he is doing about climate change. CAFOD is doing a lot of work in this area but I want to know what my MP’s party is doing.”

Commons Speaker the Rt Hon John Bercow MP told the reception:

“For my part, I always think the greatest moral challenge of our times is to try to do something about the gross crisis and disfiguring scar of global poverty. The fact that 1,000 million people around the world exist on less than a dollar a day and very large numbers of people besides exist on only moderately more than that is, frankly, a source not only of anxiety but of real shame to us all.”

Kiera is part of CAFOD’s Young Leadership programme, which offers training to help young campaigners become leaders in their local and global communities. Also at the Parliamentary reception were CAFOD ‘MP Correspondents’, supporters who write to MPs on international development issues such as the impact of climate change and trade practices.

CAFOD is encouraging Catholics to ask election candidates to support UK commitments on tackling poverty overseas and climate change, as well as working to ensure that Britain remains an outward-looking and welcoming nation.

Neil Thorns, CAFOD’s Director of Advocacy, said:

“It is so great to see local constituents raising their voices before the general election and making their local political representatives aware of issues that are important to them.

“Pope Francis himself warns that people living in poverty can often be an ‘afterthought’ in political discussions and that’s why it’s so important that we remind candidates of the need to remain an outward-looking nation – one that cares for the interests of people in the world’s poorest communities.

“This is why the commitment to maintaining UK support for overseas aid is crucial for saving lives and pulling people out of poverty.”

Kiera added she feels it’s important people get to grips with the details of what their parliamentary candidates are proposing. “I would encourage other people to make sure they read party manifestos, so they’re aware of the issues that will affect them,” she said.