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.

Celebrating our schools volunteers

This week is National Volunteers’ Week, and so we’d like to affirm and celebrate the contribution of our wonderful schools volunteers…

CAFOD Brentwood has a dedicated team of 14 volunteers who visit schools across the diocese to deliver assemblies and workshops in order to raise awareness about social justice and CAFOD’s work. From an early age, children and young people have a keen sense of justice. School volunteers inform and inspire them, helping them to turn their passion for justice into real action. With school volunteers’ input, they learn to care for their global sisters and brothers, both now and as they grow up.

Our talented schools volunteers come from a range of backgrounds including IT, social work, teaching, project management, nursing, construction, the civil service, and administration. Some are retired while others are in paid employment and they all share a passion for communicating  our work and issues of poverty and social justice to children and young people.

Schools volunteers briefing 19-1-17

Our team of schools volunteers at a briefing on the assemblies and workshops we offer to schools

In 2016/17 our team visited over 70% of schools in the diocese, that’s 64 primary and secondary schools. And during this time they delivered over 110 assemblies and workshops. 42% of schools were visited during the Lent term alone.

As well as raising awareness of poverty and social injustice among children and young people, our schools volunteers have helped schools across the diocese raise over £53,000 for CAFOD during 2016/17.

We greatly appreciate the the work of our schools volunteers Peter, Linda, Hans, John, Cynthia, Alice, Angela, Denis, Cathy, Jan, Brenda, Breda, Mark and Hilary. Thank you all!

Volunteering in schools: Inspiring the younger generation

Since 2009, when he first became a schools volunteer, Peter Jones has made over 215 visits to primary and secondary schools in his local area to deliver assemblies and workshops on behalf of CAFOD.

Peter, why did you want to become a schools volunter for CAFOD?

Having retired from HM Customs and Excise, I wanted to work more actively for a charity that I support. As a long-time member of the St Vincent de Paul Society, I have a strong interest in alleviating and eradicating poverty suffered by those at home and overseas.  I had experience of speaking in schools about the work of HM Customs & Excise and felt that I could use this experience to engage young people with themes of social justice and poverty.

St Ursula's Harvest assembly resized

How did you become a schools volunteer?

I responded to a request by CAFOD in a parish newsletter inviting people to volunteer to talk in schools about CAFOD’s work around the world. There was a short application form to fill in and I was required to have a DBS check as the role would be working with young people and children. I also attended an ‘Understanding CAFOD’ course in which we were provided with an overview of CAFOD’s work and how as an organisation it works with partners and volunteers. There were also 2 days of training on giving assemblies and workshops in schools and there was an opportunity to practice this with other volunteers. We were also encouraged to ‘shadow’ current schools volunteers so that we could see how it works in practice. This sounds a lot but it is done over a period of time and was actually very enjoyable!

Peter at All Saints Dagenham

What do you get out of being a schools volunteer?

I find it very rewarding to get feedback from pupils and teachers on what they have learnt from the sessions, especially when on subsequent visits to the school they remember what you told them maybe one or two years previously. It is also gratifying to hear from secondary school pupils how they remember the CAFOD presentations that they received in primary schools and to see how they are putting the lessons into practice in their teenage years with fundraising and social action. The challenge is to find how best to deliver the wonderful material that CAFOD provide to best suit the audience according to age, context and relevant curriculum links.

Sacred Heart cafod-cheque-Nov-2015-1024x768

Would you like to volunteer for CAFOD in schools? You can find our more information about being a volunteer with children and young people on CAFOD’s website.

You can also read about some of our other wonderful volunteers and how they inspire others to make a difference to the lives of millions of people across the world.