At present, a group of young people from around the dioceses of England & Wales are in Sierra Leone as CAFOD Gappers, visiting CAFOD funded projects. They will come back after their visit to share their experiences with CAFOD supporters and schools to promote the work of CAFOD. Carmel Wanless, representing CAFOD Salford, is one of these Gappers. Here is her latest update from Africa:
Hello All, many thanks for the positive responses to the last message. We’ve just got back to Makeni after spending a few days in Kamakwei (otherwise known as ‘The Bush’). I absolutely loved it out there – so beautiful and such a feeling of being ‘at ease’. We also managed to borrow a guitar from a volunteer physiotherapist which helped provide lots of entertainment! We visited lots of projects out there and I will be writing them all up at some point. Here’s how I found one of the first days out there:
Today Joe, Iona, Pete, Denise and I visited a village called Gbaneh Fullah on the outskirts of Kamakwei. Polo and Marvel led a meeting between the two closest villages’ elders and some members of the communities. Through CAFOD, Caritas Sierra Leone started to help these two neighbouring communities three years ago. They created four projects: growing rice, ground nuts, cashew nuts and potatoes. The villages still have constraints (such as no health care posts in the villages) but they were able to tell us about the impact that the projects have had on their lives.
One village elder, Saidu from Rokaba, gave his story. He said, “I thank God for the last three years and the work of Caritas funded by CAFOD.” He said that they are able to see the outcomes – whereas before people often went hungry, now his people have enough potatoes. “Now they are happy because they do not live with hunger.”
The other village elder, Albert from Gbaneh Fullah, said “Thanks to God and CAFOD, we have been able to avoid disaster which has brought sanity and we are happy now.” Albert said that he fully trusts that CAFOD will do whatever they say they will do. His community was completely neglected before Caritas (through CAFOD) were able to help, not only by providing the seedlings for the crops, but also by providing training so that the farmers would be able to recognise the signs of wild fires and other possible disasters. He said that beforehand, the people would only have one meal each day and that now although he can’t say there is no hunger, the hunger is much less. People are also able to sell their crops to traders too, which means they can send their children to school. He said, “If I can boast of having 1,000 or 2,000 Leones (local currency) it came from CAFOD”. He also said that the women were especially neglected before, but Caritas really incorporated them in the programme too.
I felt very humbled to be thanked by these communities for all the work that CAFOD does. This is ultimately the reason that CAFOD does the work that it does – it enables people to have their own livelihoods, whether farming or otherwise, whilst maintaining their dignity and through fully self-sustainable projects. I was honoured to be at this meeting and was so thankful for all the generous support of people back home in England & Wales. I explained to the people my work at Just Youth, and said that although it isn’t always possible or appropriate for us to collect money, I would bring their photos and stories back to Manchester to share with others, and we would keep them in our prayers and thoughts. They were so thankful. I was completely overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions: I was proud of CAFOD, I was thankful that the community had come such a long way in three years, and I also felt so selfishly grateful that my own family have never experienced hunger like these people have. The thanks they showed was so humbling and made me appreciate all the times when I’ve been able to promote the work of CAFOD and social justice. What was really heart-warming was how positive and happy the communities were, and that made us Gappers happy too!
The rest of the visit to ‘the bush’ went really well. I’ll send another update soon.