Leave no-one behind

At the heart of the 2030 agenda is to ‘Leave no one behind’; this means reaching the most vulnerable groups in society and the hardest to reach areas, development must reach everyone. After having some time to reflect on my experience in Sierra Leone this is something which has stuck with with me.


Step into the Gap volunteers Siobhan, Chris, Kayleigh and Hannah

‘Leave no one behind’ was evident in Bo where CAFOD works in partnership with the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary. In many of these communities CAFOD is the first NGO to ever work there because of the remoteness and the road conditions. We visited Bo during the dry season so there roads were dry, but even then the communities were difficult to access due to the roads being so bumpy. In the rainy season the roads will have been far more difficult to drive on and sometimes communities will go days without access to the city.

Falla is a remote community in Bo, it was much more remote that other communities we visited and the road was narrower and windier. Before the Missionary Sisters and of the Holy Rosary came to the village they did not have access to safe drinking water. There was no access for vehicles to the village because of a streams and it


The bridge the community built in Falla

could only be accessed on foot. There was no way for the digger to access this community to build a borehole. This community were determined to have access to clean water that they came together and built a bridge out of palm trees. CAFOD are the only NGO to have ever worked in this community, there are now less cases of cholera in the community.


We also met widowed women whose husbands had died during the civil war many had children and to bring them up as a single parent, they received micro grants which allowed them set up businesses. Regina received one of the grants and she sells peanuts, soap, cigarettes, biscuits and sugar. Regina said “I used to carry wood from Manguama to Bo to sell. I got up at 5am. 12 sticks of wood are really heavy and it is a two and a half hour walk. Sometimes the sticks would not sell so I would leave them with some builders to sell for me and collect the money another day. Then I would do farm work. The farm is also far from town. I would work three to four hours at the farm.”


Women who had received the micro grants

It was inspiring to see development reaching the most vulnerable and hard to reach groups, but also to see how their voices were heard and listened to.


I am now back in Birmingham sharing CAFOD’s working in Sierra Leone at schools, groups and parishes.


St Anthony of Padua – Oxford “Shares the Journey”

Inspired by Pope Francis call to Share the Journey with refugees and migrants forced by war or poverty to leave their homelands, on Pentecost Sunday (20 June) a group of 22 people, including 18 adults, two teenagers and two young adults from St Anthony of Padua’s Parish in Oxford, walked the 5 miles from Headley Way Church to the Oratory in central Oxford via St Gregory and St Augustine’s Church on Woodstock Road. The miles walked by the group will be added to the totaliser, but more importantly, they will show concrete support for those on the move and contribute to the advocacy efforts to spur world leaders to agree new and ambitious UN agreements on migration.


It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and the group started off by holding prayers and the first of five reading at their own church. Then, a second reflection on the banks of the River Cherwell whose gentle tranquillity stood in stark contrast with the plight of refugees crossing war torn borders. A third reflection was held in St Gregory and St Augustine’s, where local parishioners showed their generous hospitality by offering light refreshments to the walkers. The fourth reflection was outside St Aloysius School, where it was difficult not to think about the impact of migration and displacement on the education opportunities for refugee children.  The fifth reflection and final prayer took place in the Oratory just before vespers.

The beautiful weather seemed like God’s smile accompanying the group along the way. And the inevitable tiredness after the long march was only a small token to pay for the privilege to have Shared the Journey.


If you feel inspired by this story to organise your own Share the Journey walk, get in touch with us at dpurfield@cafod.org.uk or visit our website. Whether you are parish group or a school class, you will find it is packed with resources!