Lent in a Tent

A Dorset chaplain slept in a tent for six weeks,
the entirety of Lent, in solidarity with refugees.

Lu Worrall and her tent

While most people give up chocolate or alcohol for Lent,  Lu Worrall gave up her creature comforts, spending 40 nights in a tent in her garden.

The mother-of-four spent six weeks in the cold outdoors where this year, night temperatures in March dipped to 1 degrees. She also works as a lay Chaplin at Leweston School in Dorset.

Lu said before she started her cavas fast:

“The one thing I LOVE is sleep and that seems distinctly threatened by exposure to the elements,”

“I have four daughters who are older now, but even when they were little and camping seemed a good idea, living under canvas always seemed something of a test for me.”

“I have had numerous offers of the best torches, bedding, mattress – which, with difficulty, I’m trying to resist!”

In order to make her experience as authentic as possible, during her nights camping in the tent, Lu forgo all luxuries.

After her first night in the tent, she said:

“Gosh it was windy last night! Most strikingly, I found I was a bit lonely, a bit cold and a bit scared, which I didn’t expect; that was all knowing that I had a house I could run into and more layers than you could imagine. It was sobering as I thought of the displaced refugees who have little to comfort them.”

After less than a week in the tent, disaster struck when strong winds made her temporary accommodation collapse in the middle of the night.

Collapsed tent due to strong winds durring the night.

When asked why she chose this challenge she expressed how, after seeing the plight of the Syrian children, as a mother she felt she had to act.

“I feel I have so much to be grateful for; warmth, clothing, food, education and a place of safety.”

“I was appalled by the atrocities, poverty and injustice of the most vulnerable in Syria and I felt called to respond,” said Lu. “I want to stand in solidarity with those, especially children, who have little or no access to the fundamental things that every child has a right to.”

UN Refugee Agency figures show that 65 million have been forced from their homes worldwide – the equivalent of the population of the UK.

Of those, there are around 4.9 million Syrian refugees and around 6.1 million people are displaced within Syria. Half of those affected are children.

She decorated the inside of her tent with photos of refugees.

All the sponsorship money raised from Lu’s challenge has gone directly CAFOD’s vital refugee work, which has been assisting people affected by the Syrian crisis since the war began in 2011.

The charity’s partner in Greece, Caritas Hellas, is helping to provide emergency assistance alongside social services including lessons, activities and schooling for children and assistance with referrals to legal, medical and psychosocial support.

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Giovanna Reda, CAFOD’s Head of Humanitarian Programmes for Asia, Middle East and Latin America, said:

“There is now less attention being paid to the refugee crisis, although the number of people fleeing their homes in Syria and nearby countries remains extremely high.”

This winter, the situation for refugees deteriorated as Lu described:

“Heavy snowfalls this winter threatens refugees’ lives as they struggle to live in makeshift shelters made with blocks, plastic sheets and tin.”

“Sleeping in my factory-made tent for 40 nights didn’t come close to the discomfort experienced by the families and children who have been displaced in Syria whose tents are their homes, but it helped me to stand in solidarity with them”.

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

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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

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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.

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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