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

Join us for a Lent Family Fast Day briefing this February

Please come and join us at one of our Lent Family Fast Day briefings to hear about our work in Zimbabwe and how we are helping children like Svondo have enough healthy food to eat, and therefore prevent malnutrition.


At the briefing you will hear about how your generous donations have made a difference to Marian from Zimbabwe and her two sons Tawanda and Svondo. Her older son Tawanda lived his childhood without enough to eat and often went hungry. Marian told us that when she used to leave him to find work in the morning she would come back later to find him sitting in the same place as he didn’t have the energy to move.

Marian and familyWhen Tawanda was a teenager Marian had her second son Svondo. He is now seven and has been brought up on fresh vegetables, beans and peanut butter. Marian was supported to be able to grow enough to feed her family by the local Catholic diocese who is one of CAFOD’ s partners. So this Family Fast Day we are reaching out to other families like Marian’s to help them grow enough healthy food to feed their children.

You will also hear the exciting news that the government have agreed to match any fundraising for the Family Fast Day appeal up to £5 million, so we need to ensure that every parish in the diocese is aware of how important their support is. So please come and hear more about this project and help us to raise £5 million. We look forward to seeing you at one of our briefings which are on:

Saturday 20 January (Central London) 10am until 12.30pm – St Mary Moorfields RC Church, 4-5 Eldon Street, London, EC2M 7LS.  To book a place for this briefing contact Tony Sheen at tsheen@cafod.org.uk or call 020 8449 6970 (nearest stations are Liverpool Street or Moorgate)

Saturday 3 February (Cambridge) 10.30am until 1pm – Margaret Beaufort Institute, 14 Grange Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DU with guest speaker Fr Sterlin from CAFOD partner CHOCO in Columbia. To book a place for this briefing contact Jane Crone at jcrone@cafod.org.uk or call 01223 358552.

Monday 5 February (Wanstead) 8pm until 9.30pmOur Lady of Lourdes Parish Hall, 51 Cambridge Park, London E11 2PR. To book a place for this briefing contact Chris Driscoll at cdriscoll@cafod.org.uk or call 01277 218730

Fergus Conmee - Sudan

CAFOD’S Fergus Conmee in East Africa with our partner organisations

Saturday 10 February (Brentwood) 11am (10.30 arrivals and refreshments) until 1pm – Cathedral House, Brentwood, CM15 8AT. With guest speaker CAFOD’s Fergus Conmee (Head of Africa Region) who will be speaking about CAFOD’s work in Africa and in particular our response to the famine in East Africa. To book a place for this briefing contact Chris Driscoll at cdriscoll@cafod.org.uk or call 01277 218730

Tuesday 13 February (Brentwood) 10.30am (arrivals from 10am) until 12.30pm – Cathedral House, Brentwood, CM15 8AT. To book a place for this briefing contact Chris Driscoll at cdriscoll@cafod.org.uk or call 01277 218730

Online briefings Unable to make it to one of the briefings above? Why not join Chris for an online briefing:

Wednesday 31 January 2.30pm until 3.30pm – To register for this online briefing click on this link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8400594679642966530

Wednesday 7 February 2.30pm-3.30pm –  To register for this online briefing click on this link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8832128804288962050

Monday 12 February 2.30pm – 3.30pm To register for this online briefing click on this link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3551834163057606658

Wednesday 14 February 7.30pm – 8.30pm To register for this online briefing click on this link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/216764707361935874

Saturday 17 February 11am – 12pm To register for this online briefing click on this link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7385754243298692610

When you register you’ll receive a confirmation email with another link for you click at the time of the briefing. You’ll need a headset or speakers with a microphone.


Made any new year’s resolutions yet? Here’s some suggestions…

We often make resolutions for the new-year, promises that will improve our lives and those of others. Why not make volunteering for CAFOD your resolution?

Many of the biggest changes in the world have come from groups of people saying ‘I will’ together. Help us share God’s love by ending poverty. Help us reach everyone in poverty.

We need people in our local Churches raising awareness of poverty and our work to alleviate it. We need people to visit schools, or contact their MPs on issues of importance. We need people to pray for our work. Could you make this your number one resolution?



Could you take up one of these resolutions to change the world? Click on the links to find out more.

  1. Volunteer for CAFOD – In parishes, schools or in many other ways – see above.
  2. Pray for the work of CAFOD and our world one day each week.
  3. Make a regular gift to support our work. You can even specifically support our work in emergencies or in your Parish’s Connect2 Community.
  4. Write (or change) your will this year. Could you consider leaving a gift to CAFOD? We have info on how to do this for free.
  5. Use our resources in church with Confirmation, Communion or Children’s Liturgy.
  6. Sign up to receive updates from our blog.
  7. Campaign with us – raise your voice about issues of injustice.
  8. Hold an event in your community to raise awareness or funds for CAFOD – Use your talents, passions and your imagination. Do what you enjoy, and do it for CAFOD. Our Family Fast Day is a perfect opportunity to do this.
  9. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter
  10. Become an MP Correspondent – help to ensure that the voices of many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people are heard in the corridors of power

Contact us on 01277 218730 or email brentwood@cafod.org.uk and let’s try and make this a happy new year for all. It will be a New Year’s Revelation.

Come Lord Jesus, come and let your light shine through us so that through our actions we may be salt for the earth, a light in people’s sight and that we might reach out to you in one another, especially those in need.