On 17th March the parish of St Mary’s in Bamber Bridge, Preston hosted an Open Church event to welcome visitors from across the world in El Salvador. Erasmo and Sandra, pictured here with Philip and Linda Swarbrick and Janice Spencer from the parish’s CAFOD group, are representing Puentecitos, a remote farming village which is being supported by the parish through CAFOD’s Connect2 Scheme.  During the visit the parish presented a cheque for £12,000 to them which has been raised by scores of awareness and fundraising events in the last three years and sent to support the villagers. Erasmo also received a beautiful chalice donated by the Benedictine monks of Ampleforth Abbey answering a real need in the village.

Erasmo and Sandra went on to show how the parish’s support was helping them to transform lives. Erasmo showed how the whole community was working together to forge a sustainable future after earthquakes, drought and floods. Mountainside farmland has been reshaped into terraces and made abundant. Local crop seeds are being preserved and shared with other local villages so they are not dependent on giant seed-producing firms like Monsanto. Children and adults are being educated. Sandra and local women had set up cooperative small businesses to make soap and bags and farm fish. They had also successfully joined in lobbying their Government to outlaw domestic violence.  In solidarity St Mary’s have kept in touch throughout with their news, prayers and financial support.

The links between the two communities have grown over the period and meeting face to face at last was a fantastic occasion with visitors from across the north west there to see it for themselves. Erasmo said:  “Like the stars, you are our brothers and sisters who are so close though you are far away.”  Linda and Janice said, “It’s like a dream come true to meet Sandra and Erasmo at last for us all here. Tomorrow we will take them to our Food Bank, a local farm and bakery and a charity shop as part of their fact-finding journey as well as having lunch at a local pub!” CAFOD’s Manager in Salford Diocese Ged Edwards said, “If people ever wonder whether their money and prayers will make a difference, they should consider this programme. CAFOD’s Connect2 links parishes in England and Wales with communities across the world so people can grow in solidarity and a faith that has action and justice crammed into every corner.” For more information contact Ged Edwards or Mary Clark on 0161 705 0605, or go on line at

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