On the 11th July eighteen of the Archdiocese of Birmingham’s CAFOD volunteers gathered (in spite of the pouring rain) at Manresa House, the Jesuit Residence in Harborne, Birmingham, for an annual Away Day. The day began with a time of reflection in which each person was invited to light a candle and express their hopes of what the day would bring. While some hoped for a recharging of their spiritual batteries, others wanted to learn more about CAFOD’s work. Some said they were just happy to be with a group of people who have in common the desire for a more just world.
Geoffrey Chongo, a visitor from the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Zambia, was the first speaker of the day. The JCTR is a research, education and advocacy organisation that promotes study and action on issues linking Christian faith and social justice in Zambia. Its main research focuses are key social issues like the cost of living, social implication of debt servicing, accessibility of healthcare and education, and integrity of local democracy and it was on this theme that Geoffrey’s talk, concerning the impact that Chinese intervention is having in Zambia, was based upon. This fascinating talk ended with an impromptu debate concerning the necessities and hindrances of Chinese presence, a discussion of the long term effects on Zambia both economically and politically and even a proposition of whether the situation constituted a continuation of colonialism. Geoffrey was then presented with a quilt (shown above) made by pupils at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Brierley Hill, by CAFOD volunteer Raphael Agbor Ebot who visited the school earlier this year. The pupils had hoped that the quilt would be given to a community supported by CAFOD, and have now been told that it will be taken to Zambia as a message of solidarity and friendship.
After a hearty shared lunch it was back to the sitting room of Manresa House for a discussion lead by Geoff O’Donoghue, CAFOD’s International Director. Geoff talked about the crucial interdependence between the lives of people all over the world, in both developed and developing countries. Thinking of the ‘butterfly effect’, Geoff spoke of how reaching upwards or downwards towards a fairtrade item on a shop shelf can make a real difference to the life of someone who grew or produced that item, thousands of miles away. Giving to charity is vital, he said, but it will never be enough if that is all we do. We must be part of the change, in how we choose to live.
We are always looking for new people to join our friendly volunteer team, who come from all parts of our diocese. If you are interested, do contact us to find out more on 01922 722 944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.