Step into the GAP: James finishes his CAFOD Gap year placement at St Mary’s Catholic Academy in Blackpool

James Ronan 24, has written a reflective piece about finishing Step into the Gap, sharing stories of Cambodia, his highlights and what his hopes are for a future career.

So the time has come to say goodbye to Blackpool and St Mary’s Catholic Academy. It has been incredible year, moving all the way up from Devon to live in Blackpool to volunteer for CAFOD. It has probably been the biggest step in my life so far. Literally Stepping into the Gap in Blackpool: moving to a new area, not knowing anybody and starting a new life for a year. It has all worked out and I have had so many amazing experiences, made new friends and have met so many inspiring people, most notably in Cambodia with my fellow CAFOD gappers.

It has been great to play my small part in being able to share CAFOD’s work this year working in the Diocese of Lancaster and living within the parish at St John Vianney Presbytery. Working at St Mary’s as part of the chaplaincy team has been an absolute joy and I will have very fond memories of the team and the work we have achieved this year. My highlights include co-organising the 6th form Climate debate for CAFOD’s Speak Up campaign with guest MPs Paul Maynard and Gordon Marsden in October 2016. Leading sessions with Year 7s during form time about the Refugee crisis and the Lampedusa cross, and presenting assemblies to all college forms with the chaplaincy team on Justice January and CAFOD’s renewable energy campaign Power to Be.

Find out more about the Power to Be campaign

The Cambodia visit in January was so inspiring and affirming for me of CAFOD’s work overseas. Previously in Devon I had helped fundraise a lot for CAFOD (over £7,000) never really knowing the impact such fundraising was having. Seeing first-hand the difference my parish fundraising had made over the years as well as all the collective impact of the Catholic communities’ support in England and Wales on the other side of the world in Cambodia was elevating.

Photo 1 CAFOD Gappers with Singha

The CAFOD gappers alongside their interpreter for their first week, Singha former director of CAFOD Partner Village Support Group.

It’s an experience I will never forget. I have very fond memories of the Cambodian people we visited during our time in Battambang and Siem Reap who were so welcoming and CAFOD’s partners Village Support Group and Srer Khmer who we spent time with. On my return to the UK, the last few months of my placement have been about sharing CAFOD campaigns, fundraising and sharing the inspirational stories of the people I met and spent time with in Cambodia. In May I visited the CAFOD Plymouth Schools Volunteers to share about my Cambodia experiences and I also shared with parishioners after Mass at my old parish church in Tavistock.

Volunteer for CAFOD

As well as sharing my CAFOD Step into the Gap experiences this year with students, parishioners and CAFOD volunteers, I have also been able to share my gap year work with British and American Actors. In May I managed to share about my CAFOD gap year work with actress Hannah Spearritt (S Club 7) and actor Andrew-Lee Potts (from ITVs Primeval) at a comic convention in Huddersfield. In June I also shared with British actor Paul Blackthorne (TV show Arrow) and American actress Danielle Panabaker (TV show The Flash) at a convention in Blackpool. It has been a fantastic year of sharing CAFOD’s work with others, the important stories of the Cambodian people I met and my work as a CAFOD Gapper working at St Mary’s Catholic Academy in Blackpool.

More recently from the 7th to the 9th of July in Oxford the CAFOD gappers had a final weekend get together, for our final evaluation and celebration. The weekend was fantastic. Myself and the other gappers went out for a meal on the Friday evening which was an opportunity to catch up about our CAFOD work and the things we had been doing. On the Saturday we were joined by CAFOD staff Catherine Jones and Lucy Jardine who run the Step into the Gap programme as well as Sister Ann who is a part of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus who are one of the partners of the Step into the Gap programme.

Photo 2 Footprints of CAFOD Sharing

Prayers and representations of the CAFOD gappers sharing across the year.

We began the Saturday morning with prayer and reflection, writing on cut-out hands the people who have made a difference to our lives this year. We also used cut-out footprints to represent the people we had shared CAFOD’s work with this year, thinking about the impact of our CAFOD sharing. On the Saturday evening we all went out for a final meal with Catherine, Lucy and Sister Ann to celebrate our accomplishments this year completing the Step into the GAP programme.

There are so many people I would like to ‘Thank’ this year so I will only mention a few. I would like to ‘Thank’ everyone at St Mary’s and the parish of St John Vianney as well as everyone involved with the Step into the Gap programme, especially Bishop Michael Campbell and CAFOD staff Catherine Jones, Lucy Jardine and Patrick Gardner. I would like to say a big ‘Thank You’ to Fr Peter Sharrock and Sister Ann for their support this year in Blackpool and I would also like to ‘Thank’ this year’s CAFOD Gappers: Rod, Charlotte, Sophie, Bridgid, Lizzie, Sophie and Hannah for making this year so memorable and amazing.

Photo 3 Gappers Together

The CAFOD gappers for 2016-2017 in Oxford for their last time together.

In terms of my future I am moving down to Somerset for the time being. I have gained so many skills and have had so many new experiences this year that I hope to be able to use these to eventually develop a career in a Catholic Diocese somewhere or to work for a charity in the development sector. I hope to be able to continue to put my Catholic faith into action building on everything I have achieved so far and I am excited about what the future holds for me.

                          Find out more about Step into the Gap

 

 

 

Axminster Pupils Share The Power To Be

St Mary’s Catholic primary school in Axminster, invited 2 CAFOD Education Volunteers, Naomi and myself, Bea to come into the school to share CAFOD’s new campaign “Power to Be” with its wonderful pupils.

St Marys Pupils Shine During Workshop

We started the day with the “Power to Be” assembly, where a town in Kenya comes to life with the help of power supplied from solar panels. Not only is the town affected but the whole district too, with many opportunities provided by the electricity.

The assembly explained how children could now learn for longer thanks to new solar lights provided to them for study.  These are much better better than their old paraffin lamps which give off dangerous fumes.  In addition the community’s  medical centre now has power to keep vaccinations and medicines cool, so health is improved.   Also, a life giving solar pump for raising and storing water has enabled the market garden to flourish and become more productive. Diets and hygiene are improved thanks to this innovation.

The whole school looked at how important solar energy is for the peoples of the Global South. Not only does it impact on peoples’ lives, they can then begin to hope to achieve their dreams and have the “Power to Be”!

All the children and some staff wrote messages to the World Bank to say how important it is to invest in solar power for the Global South. The poster pictured is the result.

St Marys Power to Be poster

The older pupils also enjoyed the Unfair Football Game, and were able to empathise with our brothers and sisters in the fight against injustice.

“I think that in the Global South it is not always fair” wrote a pupil from Year 6. Another wrote, “I would recommend the CAFOD educational lesson (Workshop) to other schools” And best of all, “I really enjoyed it”

Wow. Well done all of you. Your poster is great.

Love and God Bless, Bea

We are sure that you are absolutely inspired by fantastic pupils of Christ The King, and want to take part in the campaign yourself. Click here to take actions online or view and order material to run your own campaign action in your community. 

Bags of Ideas and Growing Fundraising at St. Mary and St. George parish Totnes

Plants on the way to CAFOD Stall

St. Mary and St. George have raised over £400 since lent this year.  Recently they have done a sponsored slim, plant stall and are hoping to start a fruit and veg box over summer, all in aid of CAFOD.

I am sure all reading this like ourselves are inspired by this fantastic fundraising.  So why not get involved yourself,  are you or do you know any budding slimmer’s or people with green fingers or other creative talents together you can make a real difference to lives of our sisters and brothers around the world and put your faith into action. It does not need to be anything complicated a simple stall at the back of church with an honhesty box will do.

CAFOD Bags and Plants

For more information and support contact the CAFOD Plymouth volunteer centre on 01752 268768 or plymouth@cafod.org.uk

CAFOD Stall