DEC Coronavirus appeal raises £10 million in first week – helping charities like CAFOD to respond as first cases reported in Northern Syria

This week, thanks to the generosity of the UK public, the Disasters Emergency Committee – of which CAFOD is a member – Coronavirus Appeal has raised an incredible £10 million to help those living in the most fragile states.

The DEC Coronavirus Appeal will help the most vulnerable people in six of the world’s most fragile states: Yemen and Syria; Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Afghanistan.

Donate now

In Syria, our local partners on the ground are reporting urgent concerns about the risks of the virus spreading, as vulnerable people are unable to take the basic measures to protect themselves.

Mustafa, 28, a frontline worker supported by CAFOD, lives in a camp outside Idlib with displaced people.

He explained how they are preparing for what he calls ‘an explosion of coronavirus’ in the camps. He said:

“My heart is beating so hard; we are expecting an explosion of coronavirus in the camps.

The coming days are really critical for us.

“Doctors are preparing for the spread of the virus. People live in large overcrowded settlements in tents with maybe 12 people and no access to clean water. It will be a catastrophe. Disaster. Please help them.”

Donate to the DEC Coronavirus Appeal now

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“Stay home, stay safe!” But what if your home isn’t safe? The reality for thousands of Syrians…

Apologies for the lateness of this post, but yesterday evening (Tuesday 7 July between 7 and 8 pm), we held a special online talk about what it is like to live with Coronavirus in Syria and the surrounding countries.  Listen to the recording here.

Here in the UK, we are so used to hearing the message ‘stay home, stay safe’, but what if your home isn’t safe?’

This is reality for thousands of Syrians who were forced to flee their homes because of war and violence and are now displaced within their own country or are living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

In Syria, there is real worry for people living in camps where overcrowding makes social distancing almost impossible and where the remaining healthcare facilities are extremely fragile. The extensive community networks of the Church in Syria mean that it is well placed to provide aid in some of the worst-hit and most inaccessible areas of the country.

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CAFOD’s response to Coronavirus in Asia and the Middle East

Awareness raising in Cox’s Bazaar Photo credit: Ginea/Caritas Bangladesh

In the Middle East, our local experts are using your donations to continue their vital peacebuilding work and ensuring that legal advice can be given online.

Volunteers and priests are delivering emergency food parcels to vulnerable families in the West Bank and we are also reaching out to Bedouin communities with health equipment and information.

£6 could buy a hygiene pack for a family

Staff and volunteers are also already in vulnerable communities:

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Small steps towards sustainable living

Stella Westmacott – living simply

“I love peanut butter. It’s a staple part of my diet,” says Stella Westmacott, a retired solicitor and CAFOD volunteer. “But a lot of peanut butter contains palm oil, which is a hugely destructive industry.”

Stella and her husband, Paul, live on a remote farm in the Welsh countryside. They made the decision to live simply following retirement. They are now almost completely self-sustainable: producing their own electricity and water, recycling all waste, and growing plenty of food.

“But we can’t grow everything,” continues Stella. “So we try to make alternatives. I make peanut butter myself with a recipe that’s so simple – just peanuts, a pinch of salt and some sunflower oil. No palm oil involved!”

Stella shared with us her knowledge and top tips – the small steps you too can take towards living sustainably.

“When I retired, I went on a permaculture course and learned so much about water: how much is wasted with every flush; how grey water (the relatively clean waste water from baths, sinks, and washing machines, etc.) disappearing down the drain has devastating effects; how all this effects the ecosystem at large.

“Here, we are not on a mains water supply, but receive our water via a borehole directly on the property. Recently, I have noticed that rainfall is becoming more extreme in Wales – lots of rainfall, followed by drought. This has made us even more mindful about our water use.”

Stella volunteers for CAFOD because she recognises the similarities of her struggle to live sustainably with those vulnerable communities overseas.

Stella organising a Creation Celebration Mass with Fr Martin Donnelly

“We decided to install water butts to collect rainfall, as well as a compost toilet and a solar shower. We use the grey water in the garden. We make our own compost. We built a polytunnel so we can grow things all year round.”

Stella is also driven by a desire to reduce energy consumption. She is an environmentalist.

“We installed solar panels on the roofs to generate electricity for our home. This heats our water. If there is any excess electricity created, it goes straight back into the grid. We are also part of a local energy cooperative focusing on producing local renewable energy.”

But what are the challenges of living sustainably?

“One of our biggest challenges was cleaning. For most of my life, I used bleach to clean. Here, we have a septic tank system that decomposes waste. If inorganic materials like bleach are added, they kill the bacteria needed for the septic tank system to work properly. Therefore, I had to put my thinking cap on. After some research, I found alternative biodegradable products!”

Stella and Paul aim to create as little waste as possible.

“Of course, we do the usual: reduce, reuse, recycle. But the main thing we try to do is not create waste in the first place. We often try to repair things if they break, rather than buy replacements. I haven’t put a single black bag of waste out since we’ve been here. I compost food and regularly visit the recycling centre. I’m very mindful about what is going where.

“Being interested in the environment, I’ve always done my best to care for it. When I lived just outside Cardiff, I did litter picking on the beach. If you’re looking to start, you can do simple things like taking a carrier bag when you’re out and about and just picking up any litter you see.

Stella & Paul with fellow parishioners – showing solidarity with migrants and refugees – as part of CAFOD’s Share the Journey campaign

“I’ve learned that everything we do, or don’t do, has an impact. It’s all about being aware of this, and doing our best to make sure that impact is not a negative one.”

This commitment to sustainability means Stella and Paul eat heartily.

“We grow artichokes, kale, beans and root vegetables, including carrots, onions and potatoes. In our polytunnel, we grow salad leaves, peppers, cucumbers, basil and coriander. We also grow lots of beetroots to make pickles, roasts and dips. We have apple trees, pear trees and strawberry beds. We inherited some asparagus beds, too.”

Inspired by her experiences, Stella thinks that everyone should have a go at growing something for themselves.

“If you have a garden and you don’t know where to start, just observe the garden for a while. Look to see where the sun is at different times of day. Think about the best places for plants to get sunlight. Begin by experimenting and trying different things.

“If you only have a little bit of space, you can easily create a wildflower meadow to attract wildlife and insects to your garden.

“I know not everyone has a garden, but you can even grow things on the windowsill, like lettuce, tomatoes and herbs. You can also grow things in pots.

“Growing things provides a deeper connection to nature, which has huge benefits for overall well-being.

“Most of the changes we have made are simple. Almost anyone can make the smaller changes in their own lives. It really takes no great skill or expertise – just an idea and a willingness to experiment.”

Find out more about CAFOD’s environmental work at cafod.org.uk/climate

The livesimply award is an opportunity for Catholic communities – parishes, schools, religious orders and chaplaincies – to respond to Pope Francis’ invitation in Laudato Si’ to “work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us”.

It is awarded to communities who can show how they have been living:

• simply

• in solidarity with people in poverty

• sustainably with creation.

Find out more about CAFOD’s liveSimply award

Take a look at our 100 liveSimply ideas

Stella’s commitment to a sustainable lifestyle with Paul is featured in the Catholic Universe this week.

A tribute to a highly-valued volunteer – RIP Sue Philippart

Susan Philippart

I am finding it difficult to find the right words to describe Sue Philippart – a parish volunteer, education volunteer, campaigner, school teacher and friend in the diocese of Menevia in Wales.

Some of you may know already, that Sue died in the early hours of Wednesday 25 March, following a serious fall – the very same day as her Mum’s (Gerry) funeral at Our Lady, Star of the Sea church in Mumbles, Swansea.

The very last message I had from Sue was on 4 March to let me know that her  “lovely Mum passed away suddenly but peacefully in her sleep on Sunday 23 February, so life has been in turmoil ever since. I know you totally understand as you’ve been through the same yourself.”

Sue at a CAFOD briefing in Swansea with her granddaughter

She went on to say that she was at Mass the week before Lent Fast Day with her father and sisters and a fellow parishioner, Sarah O’Kane

“did my Lent appeal beautifully. Sarah is a beautiful soul.”

Fundraising at Our Lady, Star of the Sea in Mumbles

Sue gave me details of her Mum’s funeral in her parish, Our Lady, Star of the Sea in Mumbles on Tuesday 9 March and that two priests Fr Michael and Fr Mansel Usher (her former parish priest) were con-celebrating the Requiem Mass.

And her last message to me was: “Donations in lieu of flowers are to go to CAFOD.  Would you mind putting my beautiful Mum, Gerardine Mary McNeff, in the Book of Remembrance please.  Lots of love and hugs, Sue xxx”

Tragically, Sue had suffered a fractured skull in the fall and was put into an induced coma in hospital in Cardiff. She had emergency surgery and a request for prayers went out to family, friends, colleagues, pupils, parishioners to pray for Sue to make a full recovery.  Sue was also remembered at our Mass in Romero House.

Sadly it was a few weeks later that  Fr Mansel broke the awful news that Sue had died peacefully in the early hours of the morning. He had been with her and her family.

“May she rest in peace. Amen.”

 

We can only do the work we do at CAFOD because of wonderful volunteers like you.  And Sue really was a volunteer in a million.

Sue Philippart, Gemma Salter, Fr Mansel Usher and Sarah O’Kane

She was beautiful, intelligent, fun-loving, prayerful, reflective, caring, compassionate, supportive – a do-er who put her faith into practical action.

She oozed infectious enthusiasm with her winning smile and can-do attitude.

Mrs Philippart with some pupils after a CAFOD assembly

She was a gifted primary school teacher who will be sorely missed by her colleagues and pupils at St Joseph’s Cathedral School in Swansea where she raised awareness and inspired prayer and action for a more just world.

Share the journey walk from St Joseph’s school to St Joseph’s Cathedral – with Canon Benedict Koledoye (Dean)

She championed CAFOD’s core values: compassion, hope, dignity, solidarity, partnership, sustainability and stewardship with daily acts of kindness and expressions of solidarity and hope.

Sarah O’Kane, Fr Mansel Usher and Sue Philippart

Not only in fundraising activities, but Share the Journey walks in solidarity with refugees and migrants in the Year of Mercy and campaigning with her parish and school children to write powerful messages to the World Bank; her class drew their own sun power pictures to highlight the need for renewable energy for the world’s poorest people so that they can access vital services such as schools and health clinics.

Fairtrade campaign outside Sainsbury’s in Swansea

A talented teacher, Sue was part of the Swansea-Siavonga partnership and visited Zambia with the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms.

Sue with Sr Mary

It was a life-changing trip which also included a visit to a CAFOD project: the St Francis Intergrated Care programme in Zambia where she met Sr Mary Courtney – a religious sister of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa who was the programme co-ordinator. 

Sue was over the moon, and if it was possible to be more supportive of CAFOD, then she was.

Parishioners from OLSS with Geoff O’Donoghue and Fr Michael Apoghiran

CAFOD’s Operations Director, Geoff O’Donoghue, visited Our Lady, Star of the Sea parish and met with Sue and the wonderful group of committed and generous parishioners who support CAFOD’s work with prayer and fundraising. And he wrote to her after his trip to Mumbles to say:

“It was a great pleasure to meet Fr Michael, yourself and all the other supporters at Our Lady’s – it is very energizing to meet the levels of commitment and motivation that were so evident in your parish community and in the concern you have for others.”

Her fellow Education volunteer and good friend from OLSS, Sarah O’Kane sent us this:

“Sue was the CAFOD Parish Rep for Our Lady Star of the Sea in Mumbles and when I joined the Parish in October 2016 I asked if I could do anything to help her…well, as she used to say, the rest is history!

We became a good team, I was constantly inspired by her contagious enthusiasm for CAFOD  (due to which I also became, like Sue, a CAFOD School Volunteer.)

Sue cared deeply about justice, especially where children and education were concerned. She was always ready to go the extra mile, literally in fact, when Sue went to Zambia twice, on British Council exchange visits, she carved out time from an incredibly busy schedule to visit Sister Mary in a project supported by CAFOD. On her return home, Sue persuaded the Parish to earmark funds to continue to support Sister Mary’s Project.

We will all miss Sue’s huge smile, her warmth, her strong faith, her love of life and her wonderful enthusiasm.”

And a fellow Education volunteer in Menevia, Jane Stubbs, added:

I only knew Sue for a short time, but what an impression she made on me. I first met her on the train from Swansea to Cardiff for our CAFOD training. Sarah introduced me, and straight away it was like speaking to a long lost friend, her smile, warmth and enthusiasm for everything we talked about will always stay with me.  

It was a privilege to have known her.

And from Fr Mansel Usher:

During my time as parish priest of Our Lady Star of the Sea, Mumbles, Ms Sue Philippart, who has been a member of the parish all her life, became an invaluable supporter of a number of projects that were either already in existence or were new to the parish.

One of the projects already underway was the parish`s support for CAFOD. When I appealed for volunteers to help raise the profile of CAFOD`s activities both within the parish and within schools, Sue, along with Mrs Sarah O`Kane responded with tremendous enthusiasm.

The parish were already generous supporters of CAFOD but with the help of Sue and Sarah the level of support rose significantly. It was always a delight to work with Sue and Sarah. Any requests for help to promote events such as the Lenten Family Fast Appeals or the Harvest Appeals were always responded to with unconditional generosity.

Her “unconditional generosity” is something that I will sorely miss in our dear departed sister Sue. She is someone I knew I could totally depend upon, someone who would go out of her way to give everything to help support such a worthy cause which she totally believed in.

It is hard to believe Sue is no longer among us. In losing Sue I, like so many people, have lost a very dear friend, a beautiful person of deep, unwavering faith.”

Sue’s family have sent up a fundraising page in her memory with proceeds to CAFOD; she will live on in our work.  We are incredibly grateful to Sue’s father, Chris McNeff and to all her family for thinking of CAFOD at this awfully difficult time. She would be so proud of you all.

St Joseph’s Cathedral School, where Sue taught for many years, has produced a wonderful montage which we share here.

We will forever miss your radiant smile, your unfailing enthusiasm and your warm and loving friendship. Thank you Sue, from us all at CAFOD.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13)

Sue gave all of these in abundance. May she rest in eternal peace.

 

 

 

 

LOVE IS CIVIC & POLITICAL: Our Faith and the Common Good

You are warmly invited to join us for a CAFOD Faith in Action day.

Previously known as retreats, the Faith in Action days are free and open to all; whether you are new to campaigning, want to learn more about campaigning or you joined us a long time ago, you are very welcome. 

From Trump to Brexit to climate, politics is everywhere. But when should we pray from the side-lines and when should we roll up our sleeves?

The Church here and around the world has a proud history of encouraging Catholics’ political reflection and action. With amazing results.

At this CAFOD day, we’ll explore the links between faith and politics.

Join us and reflect on Scripture and Church teaching.

Sign up on Eventbrite today.

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Six years on from Pope Francis’ visit to Lampedusa

Pope Francis offered a Mass ijn St Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Monday (8th July) commemorating his visit to Lampedusa six years ago, praying for all migrants who have either died or been abused along their route.
“On this sixth anniversary of the visit to Lampedusa, my thoughts go out to those ‘least ones’ who daily cry out to the Lord, asking to be freed from the evils that afflict them,” 
“These least ones are abandoned and cheated into dying in the desert; these least ones are tortured, abused and violated in detention camps; these least ones face the waves of an unforgiving sea; these least ones are left in reception camps too long for them to be called temporary,”

CAFOD’s Annual Review Summary (April 2017-March 2018)

If you have a spare moment, we invite you – our loyal volunteers and supporters, and any other interested parties who are visiting our blog – to take a look at our Annual Review which has been recently published.

You can see how the volunteering you commit to for us, transforms lives around the world.  Sometimes we hear people say, I am just putting up a poster or handing out Fast Day envelopes – it’s not much to ask.  With the greatest respect, we disagree!

The cover photo of the report (not the one above) shows: Fatema who is 18 at the Balukhali refugee camp in  Bangladesh.  Fatema had to flee Myanmar after her home was burnt down and her husband killed by the military. More than 600,000 Rohingya have been forced from their country, often with no possessions and with nowhere safe to travel to, in order to save their lives and those of their families. Countless more who were unable or unwilling to leave have been killed.

But thanks to your support, CAFOD, with our local Church partner Caritas Bangladesh, were able to respond to this crisis by providing emergency food, shelter and sanitation supplies to those in desperate need.

This report details how your contributions enable CAFOD to help millions of people like Fatema each year, and celebrates the transformational change your prayers, actions and donations help bring about.

We want to share just how valuable your contribution is to our work.  Thank you.

 

Campaign volunteers in Wales donated shoes for refugee art installation

Back in the middle of August hundreds of shoes were displayed on the square in front of and up the steps to Westminster Cathedral.  Why?  To demonstrate how many Catholics around the country were speaking out in support of Pope Francis’ refugee campaign: Share the Journey.

Two of our long-standing CAFOD Campaign volunteers: John Fellows (Cardiff) and Stella Westmacott (Menevia) each donated a pair of their own shoes to be part of the art installation which saw their shoes alongside 300 shoes sourced from refugees.

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Arms wide open in welcome at Our Lady’s in Hereford

The parish of Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs in Hereford held their Share the Journey walk after early Mass on Sunday 9 September.

At the end of Mass, CAFOD’s Share the journey presentation was shown to the congregation and the silence in church was palpable and powerful as myths were debunked and the reality of the journeys some of our brothers and sisters are forced to make were starkly laid bare.

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