Parishioners and friends from St Mary’s RC Church in Monmouth
Diana Turnbull, a member of the Monmouth and Ross LiveSimply group hosted a soup lunch on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of Lent and to raise funds to support CAFOD’s Lenten appeal for Zimbabwe.
In 1960, a group of Catholic women did something extraordinary. They organised the first Family Fast Day to support mothers and babies in Dominica who were suffering from malnutrition. They received overwhelming support. They aimed to raise £500 but in fact raised over £6,500.
The following year they raised £27,000. And from this CAFOD was born.
Elspeth Orchard, one of CAFOD’s founders, explained:
“We weren’t doing anything special, we were just doing what we thought we ought to do, remembering that we are all God’s children.”
This year CAFOD is returned to the origins of Family Fast Day and invited supporters to express their love and compassion for our global family, through prayer, fasting and giving.
Fasting is an important spiritual practice, particularly during Lent. Our fast is a symbolic act of love for people who have to go without food – it unites us with them and shows them they are not alone.
Pope Francis tells us that Lent is a time for us to wake up – to have our eyes opened to who we are called to be as children of God. To see that God can give us strength to change not only our own lives, but also to reach out and help others.
Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew. Pope Francis Lenten message 2018
Fasting has the potential to change and transform our relationships not only with our neighbour, but with ourselves, with God and with creation.
In the Catholic Christian tradition fasting is not seen in isolation, but is very closely linked to prayer and almsgiving – giving money to worthy causes.
This year CAFOD’s Lenten appeal focuses on Zimbabwe.
Once known as the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe now struggles to grow enough food for the population, with one in three people undernourished.
The collapse of the economy, combined with changes in the climate that see later and more erratic rainfall and long dry spells in the growing season, have led to the country struggling to feed itself in many of the last few years.
January to March is the most difficult time of year for food. The rains have started falling from November but the harvest won’t start until April and the stores from last year are depleted – this time of year is known as the ‘hunger gap’.
Children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people living with HIV and AIDS are particularly vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition. In Zimbabwe, one in four children under five have stunted growth from not getting enough good food.
CAFOD is working with the local Catholic church, through Caritas partners in Zimbabwe to tackle hunger and malnutrition.
We are also helping communities to plant community vegetable gardens where each family has their own plot to grow vegetables for their family to eat and to sell any surplus – providing seeds and tools and fencing off the garden to protect the produce from livestock
We are training families on farming techniques to grow drought-resistant crops and adapt their farming methods to a changing climate.
We are teaching families about good nutrition and providing seeds to grow protein-rich foods such as sesame and peanuts.
We’re training nurses and village health workers on nutrition – how to spot a malnourished child and how to prevent malnutrition.
We’re setting up support groups for new mums – where experienced mothers in a community run weekly sessions and undertake home visits with pregnant women and new mums to teach them about breastfeeding and weaning.
We’re running cooking demonstrations through support groups for mums – so mothers know what nutrients are in the new vegetables they are growing and how best to cook them.
Last but not least, we are teaching communities about good hygiene and providing safe water, so people don’t lose nutrients from diarrhoea.
In areas where we have been working, statistics show that people’s diets have improved and people are eating more food and a better variety of nutritious food.
So Diana responded to our invitation to organise her own soup lunch and eat a simple meal in solidarity with others who regularly go without enough to eat.
What your fundraising can do…
- £1 buys seeds for a family to grow beans that are full of protein
- £3 can train a local mum to set up a support group for new mums, to advise on breastfeeding and weaning
- £6 can train a health worker to weigh and measure babies to check for malnutrition
- £10 can buy nutritious sesame seeds for a family to sow
- £12 can provide seeds for a family to grow peanuts and make nutritious peanut butter
- £20 can buy a watering can so seedlings don’t dry out
- £56 can buy all the seeds needed for a family to plant a garden full of nutritious vegetables
- £194 can train two health workers and a network of local mums so a whole village of mothers have all the information they need to keep their babies healthy
- £1,266 buys all the tools needed for a community to care for their own vegetable garden
We are fortunate enough to have been awarded match funding for our Lent Fast Day Appeal from the government’s Department for International Development (DFID). This means all eligible donations our supporters make during our Lent Family Fast Day Appeal will be matched by the government, up to a total value of £5m. All donations made from 13 February until 12 May will be doubled.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:
“Malnutrition has devastating effects on families all around the world, with children at risk of long-term physical and mental damage.”
“Every donation made by the generous British public to the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development’s Family Fast Day Appeal will be matched pound for pound by the UK Government, helping families in Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Zambia gain access to the food they need to survive.”
So the money from the UK Government will fund a three-year project to improve nutrition in Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Zambia – reaching 245,00 people.
So thank you Diana! The event on Ash Wednesday was a great way for us to start Lent. It was well attended by friends and parishioners alike and the soup was absolutely delicious.
£100 was raised and your donation will be doubled by the UK Government, making double the difference.
Donate to CAFOD’s Lent appeal here
It’s not too late for your parish to get involved. Find resources here.