Step into the Gap volunteer, Lizzie, who is currently volunteering at Just Youth, reflects on her recent trip to Cambodia and how it has inspired questions for her parliamentary candidates.
On 18th April, Theresa May called a General Election. This was immediately followed by campaigning and manifestos, news reports and social media posts. The topics that got us all talking were Brexit, a term we have come to use on a daily basis, the NHS and education. During this time, one thing struck me: we are incredibly inward facing.
Don’t get me wrong, these are extremely important issues that any government needs to address, however as a nation we also have a duty to our brothers and sisters across the world, not just across the street. CAFOD supporters have shown time and time again this truth. Through campaigns and appeals, CAFOD has joined with other UK-based development agencies to show not only the government, but also the rest of the world, that we care for our common home and those we share it with.
As someone who is passionate about both development and having the opportunity to vote in a world where many do not, a couple of questions were immediately raised: what topics can I prompt my Parliamentary candidates on and how, as a bog-standard 22 year old, can I be empowered to do such a thing?
As a geography and development graduate, I talk about climate change whenever I am given the chance! So surely it makes sense for me to talk about this issue with my Parliamentary candidates? Climate change is no longer the ‘popular’ global issue it once was; newspapers have stopped reporting on its impacts and erratic weather conditions are considered the norm. For many countries across the world however, the impacts of climate change are much more tangible.
As part of the Step into the Gap programme, I spent time in Cambodia, meeting with partners and communities supported by CAFOD. While meeting with community members in Ou Breus village, I saw first-hand the impact climate change is having on families. As rainfall becomes more unpredictable, the main source of income through farming is compromised. Many community members told us of how they have been forced to seasonally migrate across the border to Thailand to find work, usually through illegal and unsafe routes. There, they are regularly exploited, often returning with less money than they left with. However, as the effects of climate change become more apparent in the area, they are left with no other option.
But climate change is definitely not the only issue to raise! Refugees, fair trade deals and the commitment of spending 0.7% of gross national income on aid are all crucial points to address in the upcoming election as well.
One thing I have to remember when speaking to my MP is that I am not simply bog-standard. I am the product of the indescribable love of our incredible creator God. I have Philippians 4:13 on the back of my bedroom door, so that every time I leave the room, I am reminded of what I can achieve: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.
Practically, CAFOD offers support on how to campaign, from writing to your MP to becoming a Campaigns Volunteer.
So in the run up to the election, don’t just sit back and watch. Get involved, push for answers from your parliamentary candidates and help to create a government we are proud of.