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”.

My Experience as a Campaign Volunteer

Man holding a sign saying 'one climate, one world'

Bernard in Paris at the Climate Conference

Bernard White has written a special report about his volunteering experiences as a Campaign volunteer.

I volunteer in Campaigns, working with Simon Giarchi in the Plymouth diocese, with the rather grandiose title of Campaigns Coordinator for the diocese.

CAFOD volunteers at green hearts making workshop

Bernard with Doreset volunteers as part of the ‘Green Hearts Campaign’

I have been volunteering with CAFOD since mid 2003, as a parish contact but also with a special interest in campaigning. When I lived in Croydon, I carried out the Campaigns Coordinator role for the Southwark diocese, transferring to Plymouth about three and a half years ago.

I have a certain sense of justice which makes me want to help those who are poor or vulnerable or both. I joined CAFOD following a talk local by a CAFOD person about debt relief, and CAFOD was involved in pretty much everything which concerned me.

Learn more about the latest CAFOD campaign 

Bernard White and Caroline Flint MP

Bernard at a recent meeting of MPs

I suppose the most positive aspect of volunteering is experiencing doing things which I believe will make a difference, and persuading other people to do the same.

There are two different aspects of volunteering which stand out for me. The first is having collected signatures or other forms of recordable support when we have asked a group of people for it, say after a talk at mass or in a school. The second is participating in a joint action such as marching through Copenhagen in 2010 or London for climate change action or lobbying my MP in parliament.

Learn more about the different volunteering roles in CAFOD