Step into the Gap: Working together to weave change in Cambodian communities

An update from our James Ronan who is currently one of CAFOD’s amazing “gappers” in our Step into the Gap programme – Go James! 🙂

CAFOD blog

James Ronan, who is currently taking part in CAFOD’s Step into the Gap, talks about the village communities he spent time with in Cambodia where local organisations are empowering communities to change their lives for the better.

Step into the Gap volunteers walking through now flourishing fields Step into the Gap volunteers walking through now flourishing fields

Cambodia’s long history, most recently the civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime, has “left many communities broken”, said Singha, one of the founding members of CAFOD partners, Village Support Group (VSG).

“The communities are like a broken basket, it needs reweaving. VSG was founded to help support and enable communities to strengthen capacity and weave change to support themselves.” And from what I have seen from my short time in Cambodia, local organisations really are making an inspiring difference by helping to empower communities across Cambodia.

Find out more about Step into the Gap

The first village we travelled to was an…

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Hundreds walk in solidarity as Lampedusa Cross is delivered to Plymouth shores by Royal Navy


Bishop Mark O’Toole with CofE Arch-Deacon Ian Chandler, representatives from the Royal Navy and Oliver Colevile MP with the Lampedusa Cross on the Mayflower Steps

Marking the end of the Year of Mercy, hundreds from across the Diocese of Plymouth gathered in Plymouth city centre, travelling from as far away as Wool in Dorset and Truro in Cornwall, to take part in a Walk of Witness in solidarity with refugees. The Walk was led by Bishop Mark O’Toole, who walked alongside the diocesan Lampedusa Cross – a cross hand carved from the wreckage of refugee boats, the group walked to Plymouth Roman Catholic Cathedral, where a multi-faith service will took place.

Write a message of hope to refugees

As part of a campaign led by CAFOD and our partners CSAN and the Jesuit Refugee Service, each Catholic cathedral in England and Wales has been gifted a cross and invited to display it. The Lampedusa Crosses have become an international symbol of remembrance, hope and solidarity with refugees.

The Presentation of the Lampedusa Cross


Royal Navy launch delivering the Lampedusa Cross to Bishop Mark and faith leaders at the Mayflower Steps

At the start of the day, representatives from the Royal Navy, who have been involved in European led rescue operations in the Mediterranean, symbolically delivered the Lampedusa cross by boat to Catholic Bishop of Plymouth, Mark O’Toole and Anglican Archdeacon of Plymouth, Ian Chandler and other faith leaders, landing at The Mayflower Steps.


Bishop Mark at Walk of Witness

Bishop Mark O’Toole said:  “Lampedusa is the place where, within his first months, Pope Francis went and he asked the question from the beginning of the Bible, ‘Where is your brother?’ reminding all of us that these people are our brothers and sisters.


“We share a common humanity and whilst there are great challenges in our immigration policy which we’re all very sensitive of, nevertheless particularly for families and for children, we must have a great compassion and empathy for them. It’s been good for our country that we’ve been able to welcome some of those that are most endangered at this time.”

Standing together to show solidarity

CAFOD organised the event alongside the Catholic Diocese of Plymouth, the Anglican Diocese of Exeter, Justice and Peace Plymouth, and local charity Transforming Plymouth Together.

Co-organiser of the event, CAFOD’s Coordinator for the Diocese of Plymouth, Simon Giarchi, said:

“It was inspirational to see people from across the diocese come together to represent their communities and show solidarity with their brothers and sisters who are seeking sanctuary. On the day, we received hundreds of messages of hope for refugees from across the diocese, that were then blessed at the interfaith service.

“We had nothing but positive feedback from the public and it was very affirming experience for everyone. I would like to thank everyone who came and helped organise this fantastic event.”

People in the South West and around the country have been invited to share their messages with refugees; CAFOD have now received over 24,000 messages!

Write a message of hope to refugees

Spotlight on Brazil: protecting indigenous peoples

Whilst I’m absolutely enjoying the Olympics, we do need to shine a spotlight on Brazil and do all we can to protect and stand in solidarity with the country’s indigenous peoples.

After having the opportunity to visit some of our inspirational partners in Brazil I know from personal experience how amazing their work is amidst great challenges, and how vital our support for their work is.

Our indigenous sisters and brothers continue to be murdered, criminalised, threatened, evicted from their land, and their rights to health, education and their cultural identities attacked alongside huge government cuts to their support!

Please read and share this brilliant and challenging blog from of my brilliant colleagues, Esther Gillingham, who is CAFOD’s Brazil Programme Officer.

CAFOD blog

Esther Gillingham is CAFOD’s Brazil Programme Officer. As the Olympic Games get underway in Rio, this World Indigenous Day (9 August) Esther turns the spotlight on our work with Brazil’s indigenous peoples.

Brazil is once again under the world’s spotlight. Just two years ago, Brazil spent roughly USD3.6bn of public money on stadiums for the 2014 World Cup. Now, when 25.8 million Brazilians live in poverty, and the country is experiencing its worst political and economic crisis in decades, Brazil is hosting a second mega sporting event: the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro from 5 to 21 August.

7 facts about Brazil you probably won’t hear at the Olympics

Brazil’s most vulnerable

In preparation, an estimated £3.8bn of taxpayers’ money has been spent and 77,000 people have been evicted from their homes. Here in the UK, I’ve found it difficult to ignore the headlines about the Zika virus, entrenched political…

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