Being a CAFOD School Volunteer: a Personal Story

Phil at school

Phil leading a Lent Fast Day assembly

A few years ago I volunteered to be a CAFOD Parish Volunteer at the request of my Parish Priest. I had just retired from my teaching career. Early in my career, my wife and I had spent ten years living and working in Zambia, in some of the remotest parts of what was then called Barotseland. The first seven years we had no electricity, and the water supply was not always reliable. The last three years were in the Eastern Province. This was a more developed region with electricity, a water supply, and tarmac roads from Lusaka, the capital to Malawi. These experiences always provided me with the motivation to support CAFOD throughout my working life.

It wasn’t long before I was asked if I would become a CAFOD Schools Volunteer. I was promised that I would receive a lot of support and training. My first thought was that I had spent a lifetime teaching, so why do I need more training? The answers became clear as I underwent an induction to CAFOD, and learned a lot more about CAFOD’s Vision, Mission, and Values. I was really impressed by the professionalism of all the CAFOD staff, both in the Birmingham Diocesan Volunteer Centre and at CAFOD’s Head Office, Romero House.

I also had to undergo a DBS check, as do all CAFOD Schools Volunteers. This is to make sure that we do not have any criminal record or history which would mean we could be a danger to children. I have been asked to update my training in this area which demonstrates that CAFOD does take its safety responsibilities very seriously.

This is my fourth year of schools visiting. To begin with we were asked to visit around the times of the Lent and Harvest Fast Days. We have one day’s training each term where we are presented with the themes and background to the assemblies and workshops for both Primary and Secondary. We then look carefully at how to deliver them. These are always planned and tested carefully, which means we are able to deliver them with confidence.

Because these assemblies and workshops focus on Fast Days there is always an element of fundraising, but they are also excellent tools to educate our children about people living in some of the poorest countries in the world, and how they are being helped to improve and develop their way of life by CAFOD and our partners.

For the last two summer terms we have also offered visits on other themes. Last year, in response to the Year of Mercy, CAFOD developed a pilgrimage inspired by the Lampedusa Cross, focusing on the plight of Refugees and Asylum Seekers. This was, and still is, a very popular activity. It explains reasons why people become refugees, and also the extreme dangers and hardships they face in seeking a place of safety.

Another focus is Laudato Si’. We have developed a Laudato Si’ Challenge for pupils to demonstrate that they have responded to Pope Francis’ call to ‘Live Wisely, Think Deeply, and Love Generously’. This has proved to be very popular. There are also other topics such as Becoming a Fairtrade School, A Rough Guide to CAFOD (for schools where there hasn’t been a visit previously), and of course CAFOD’s Campaigns ‘One Climate, One World’, and the new Campaign ‘Power To Be’.

Schools Volunteers do not have to have any previous experience of working in schools. They can be any age, as long as they have some time that they are willing to give to this important and rewarding role. I visit both Primary and Secondary Schools in my area. We have two other School Volunteers in my area, so all schools are able to receive at least one visit per year. However, there are some parts of the Diocese where there aren’t any School Volunteers currently, or only one to cover a huge area with a large number of schools.

Are you concerned about working to help alleviate poverty in the world?

Do you have some time during the day which you may be willing to use to visit local schools?

Will you consider becoming a CAFOD School Volunteer?

You will receive regular training and resources; all expenses are paid; and the benefits and rewards are priceless.

Find out more here or contact CAFOD’s Birmingham Volunteer Centre on 01922 722944 or email

Phil Mayland.

School Volunteers gather for Summer term Refresher

On Monday 8 May, our lovely team of School Volunteers across Birmingham Archdiocese gathered for our Summer Term Refresher.

It was a pleasure to be joined by Gemma Salter, from our Education Team, who helped unpack some of our Summer Term assemblies and workshops for primary and secondary schools.

These included assemblies and workshops on our Power to be campaign. We got hands on and created our own sun of messages calling on the World Bank to support local, renewable energy so that children everywhere have the power to achieve great things and lift themselves out of poverty.

SV Summer Refresher- use

Our Birmingham Archdiocesan team of School Volunteers with their ‘Power to be’ sun

We also heard a moving account of the impact of climate change and CAFOD’s work in Cambodia from our Step into the Gap Volunteer, Charlotte Bray’s, recent visit.

Thank-you very much to all who joined us, for your energy and enthusiasm and for being such a great inspiration to children and young people across our Archdiocese.

Would you like to join our School Volunteer team?

We’d be delighted to hear from you at or on 01922 722 944.

Students from Cardinal Newman Catholic School, Coventry reflect on the Lampedusa Cross and offer messages of hope and love to refugees

At the start of July, Cardinal Newman Secondary School, Coventry hosted our Lampedusa Cross and completed messages of hope cards to be shared with refugees at the end of the Year of Mercy.

Lampedusa Cross, Cardinal Newman, CovCardinal Newman’s Chaplain, Laura Kemp, tells us more:

‘We had the honour of having a Lampedusa cross in school, this cross is on a pilgrimage to teach others and share a message of hope and salvation, whilst also raising awareness of the suffering of those seeking refuge.

The Lampedusa cross is made from the pieces of boat that was wrecked off the coast of Lampedusa. This boat was carrying nearly 400 people from Somali and Eritrea seeking safety and refuge- 311 drowned on the journey. Francesco Tuccio used parts of the shipwreck to make crosses for the survivors as a symbol of hope after their ordeal. Some of these crosses are now travelling round the world as a message of hope, peace and mercy.

Students have been reflecting upon the significance of this cross and writing messages to those seeking refuge, all of these messages will join the CAFOD campaign and will also be sent to refugees around the world as messages of hope and love. We are extremely proud of the respect, love and understanding that our students have voiced in their messages.’

Laura Kemp, Lay Chaplain

Our Lampedusa Cross for the Birmingham Archdiocese is on display at St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham.

If you would like to borrow the Lampedusa Cross for your parish or school pilgrimage or messages of hope card signing, do get in touch (