Celebrating 21 Years with CAFOD

In July 1997 Chancellor Gordon Brown launched the first Labour budget for 20 years, the IRA declared a ceasefire, – and the UK had won the Eurovision song contest (Katrina and the Waves with ‘Love Shine a light’, in case you’re struggling to remember).  A very remarkable year indeed!

For me it was significant for another reason. I started work at CAFOD. I came from a previous career as a Librarian and having had a break to have my two children. (My youngest had just started school and they are now 30 and 26 years old!). The local diocesan office was then called CAFOD West Midlands and my job title was Regional Assistant. I worked with Theresa Codd, the Regional Manager and job-shared with Mai Williams. If I’m honest I knew very little about CAFOD when I started, other than they held two collections a year, at Lent and Harvest, so it was a surprise to discover how much more CAFOD did, particularly campaigning.

Jubilee 2000 Human Chain - Cathedral Square, BirminghamIn 1997 CAFOD was part of an international coalition called Jubilee 2000, calling for the cancellation of third world debt by the year 2000. One of the first campaign events I was involved with was in 1998 when the leaders of the G8 countries met in Birmingham. 70,000 campaigners descended on the city, chanting ‘Drop the Debt’ and forming a massive human chain, which snaked its way through the city centre. It was a remarkable day and one that I will never forget. I realised that when we come together we can make a difference. It didn’t happen overnight, but it brought the issue of debt to the attention of politicians and in 1999 $100Bn of debt relief was announced by the G8 at their meeting in Cologne.

Debt was also one of the targets of 2005’s ‘Make Poverty History’ Campaign, of which CAFOD was also a member. The three demands of the campaign were: Trade Justice, Drop the Debt and More and Better Aid. The symbol of the campaign was a white wristband, which was the essential accessory throughout 2005!


2005 was significant because Britain assumed presidency of the G8 on 1 January and the G8 summit was held at Gleneagles, Scotland on July 6. There were many Make Poverty History events held throughout the year and on 2 July over 225,000 protesters demonstrated in Edinburgh to promote the campaign’s demands. I was there with my family and many colleagues and CAFOD supporters. I remember realising just how many people were there when it took us over an hour standing in a queue to actually set off on the march! The G8 responded by promising $48bn (£31bn) of aid and debt cancellation for many of the poorest countries, an amazing achievement that has made a huge difference. Since 2005, 35 million more children have been able to go to school.

We’ve still got some way to go before we do make poverty history and so CAFOD’s campaigning continues. Currently we’re focusing on refugees and migrants with Share the Journey, responding to Pope Francis’s call to respond with compassion and call on governments to protect the human dignity of people on the move.

I’ve been able to see for myself the difference the fundraising and campaigning of our supporters makes. In 2011 I visited Ethiopia to see projects supported by an emergency appeal following a severe drought in East Africa. I visited communities in the south of country – pastoralist communities that rely on their precious livestock for survival. Much of the livestock had perished leaving communities in a perilous position. With CAFOD’s support they were being helped to improve their access to water and to establish alternative sources of income to make them more resilient in the future. Everyone I met asked me to thank CAFOD’s supporters. One man told me ‘Thank you to everyone. We need assistance because of our conditions. At this time we don’t have many options. Please continue to support us.’


 CAFOD’s work is only possible thanks to our wonderful supporters and our dedicated team of volunteers. When I started at CAFOD in 1997 there was a small but very active group of volunteers working with us and I’m pleased to say that many of them are still volunteering with us today. They’ve been joined by an increasing number over the years and we are always pleased to welcome new volunteers to our CAFOD Birmingham team.

In 2015 there was a refocusing of how we work in dioceses in England and Wales. Our local diocesan offices are now called Volunteer Centres and our role as Community Participation Coordinators is to recruit and support volunteers in a variety of roles with the aim of encouraging as many people as possible to get involved in our work. We have volunteers supporting us in their parishes, by visiting schools to talk to children and young people, by writing to their MP, by supporting other volunteers as volunteer coordinators and by helping us in our Volunteer Centre. They make a huge difference to our work and I feel very privileged to be able to work alongside them and very much look forward to continuing to do so. Here’s to the next 21 years!

Julia Hood, CPC Birmingham Archdiocese

Find out more about being a CAFOD Volunteer or contact birmingham@cafod.org.uk 01922 7822944

Supporting our local Parish Volunteers

Rose Griffith- Area Coordinator, Birmingham Archdiocese

Rose Griffith, vol highlight- 19 Dec17

Rose started her volunteering journey with CAFOD as a Parish Volunteer and a School Volunteer. Rose continues to undertake these roles and through them engages her fellow-parishioners at Holy Cross and St Francis, Walmley as well as children and young people in local primary and secondary schools in CAFOD’s work. With this grounding, Rose took on the additional role of Area Coordinator for Birmingham North and Birmingham East deaneries in Autumn 2016.

With Rose’s bubbly, kind and enthusiastic nature, Rose extends a warm welcome to all new Parish Volunteers and does a fantastic job supporting, resourcing and inspiring current volunteers within her local area through regular phone calls as well as meetings. Additionally, Rose has played a key role in growing the volunteering team, notably through inviting supporters to become MP Correspondents.

Rose shares her motivations for volunteering: ‘In my working life, as a teacher, I’ve always had a lot of involvement with CAFOD through using their materials to promote social justice and encouraging the children to participate in Fast Days. So, when I retired, it seemed a natural thing to look at volunteering with CAFOD.’’

Based within our CAFOD Birmingham Volunteer Centre, Rose is a pleasure to work with and is a key partner to our work. Thank you very much Rose for all your energy, commitment and proactiveness as well as your willingness to give every task a go! We are very grateful to Rose for all her hard work. On behalf of all the communities we work with overseas, thank you.

Would you like to become part of our friendly team of Parish Volunteer Coordinators, inspiring others locally to get involved? We are currently looking for coordinators in Banbury, Rugby, Warwick and several other deaneries across the Birmingham Archdiocese. Do get in touch, we’d be delighted to hear from you at birmingham@cafod.org.uk or on 01922 722944 .

By Lizzie Wignall, CPC CAFOD Birmingham


Making a Difference in Schools

Pete photo

Pete McCann – Education Volunteer Coordinator, CAFOD Birmingham 

Pete responded to an appeal for volunteers made in 2014 at his parish church, Holy Cross and St Francis in Walmley, Sutton Coldfield.  His background in education made him ideal for the new role of Education Volunteer Coordinator and Pete has really developed and expanded this role over the past three years. He works from our Volunteer Centre once a week and his focus is to promote our team of school volunteers to schools across the diocese and support them in arranging visits to do assemblies and workshops.

Pete contacts schools each term to promote our school volunteers and invite them to take up our offer of an assembly or workshop to hear more about our work.  He is very organised and his great gift for communicating our work to schools has made a huge difference to the numbers of visits that now take place each term.


Pete also supports us in recruiting new volunteers and managing our existing team. He plays a significant role in helping us to organise our termly ‘Refresher’ training days and presents an update on how our school volunteer programme is progressing. He is great at analysing our school visit statistics and presenting them in a very positive and accessible way. He is also known for his lovely homemade soups which he often brings to share at our meetings!

As well as being kept very busy with his coordinating role Pete also finds time to occasionally visit schools as well. He is a very talented musician and always tries to incorporate music into his visits when he can, which always goes down well with pupils.

Pete explained why he wanted to volunteer for CAFOD and what motivates him:

‘I was due to retire from my job and saw it as a great opportunity to be involved in educating children and young people on issues of global justice. After a career as a special educator and many years as a school governor at Bishop Walsh Catholic School, here was a chance to help with co-ordinating CAFOD’s education programme, enabling me to support the Catholic mission of our schools and other supporters, more widely.’

‘I feel fortunate to have had such an inspirational and effective team to work alongside, both at the Volunteer Centre and ‘out in the field’. My experience of seeing at first hand the enthusiasm and energy of children, young people, school staff and parents in engaging with CAFOD’s messages has been a source of great joy over the past three years!’

We are very grateful to Pete for all his support. His enthusiasm, his good humour and his commitment to CAFOD is inspiring and is helping to bring CAFOD’s work to an increasing number of young people across our diocese. Thank you for being such a great colleague and member of our team Pete.

Find out how you can join our team of volunteers