CAFOD worker inspires at Aquinas College

On a recent visit to a local Stockport college, the Emergency Programme Manager for CAFOD’s Syria response shared his insights into the world of humanitarian working with the next generation.

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Alan Thomlinson first travelled to Syria in 2010 as a tourist, and recently returned from a trip almost seven years later in his role as Emergency Programme Manager for CAFOD.

Students were interested to hear about working in international development and to learn about the enormous impact of the Syrian crisis.

Alan inspired the students by sharing his experiences as an aid worker and the impact this has had on his life both personally and professionally.

He said: “I enjoyed sharing my experiences with the group at Aquinas College.  The group were interested and it was brilliant to be able to enlighten them on the realities of working in the humanitarian sector, but equally to share with them the sense of reward that this comes with working in the field.”

Sadiqah Sultana, a lower sixth Global Justice and Peace student at Aquinas, said:  “I attended the talk and Alan informed us about the ongoing complex issues in Syria and how CAFOD provides short term aid for those suffering in the war torn country.

“He gave us his insight on his shaky journey to becoming a humanitarian worker and the difficulties in getting a career in international development. Overall, I enjoyed the talk as it educated me on topics I didn’t understand before and taught me where generous donations to CAFOD go to.”

The talk highlighted the complexity of the crisis in Syria, and Alan explained how aid agencies like CAFOD are responding to the challenges that arise.

CAFOD’s local representative in Stockport, Bridget Fenwick, said: “Thanks firstly to Alan, who offered such a great insight into his work, and secondly to the students at Aquinas who showed such a deep understanding of the topic and an eagerness to learn about CAFOD’s work.”

Find out more about CAFOD’s work in Syria 

St Alban’s School write messages of hope

Cecilia Davison from St Alban’s in Macclesfield writes about the wonderful opportunity she had to take the Lampedusa Cross in to the Parish Primary School.

As a member of St Alban’s (Macclesfield) Justice & Peace Group, on Monday 4 July I children-holding-crosshad the privilege of taking the Lampedusa Cross to St Alban’s Primary School during the week one of such crosses was staying at our Parish.

I was given the opportunity of leading Morning Assembly, and aided by a short presentation we had a very lively, interactive, and moving discussion about the plight of the refugees.

Prayers and messages of hope were mentioned as ways of showing compassion and support for all displaced people, and on leaving assembly the children were allowed to gently touch the cross from Lampedusa to show their sorrow and respect.

After the other children left, the G.I.F.T. team had the opportunity to hold the cross and to listen to more stories about fleeing families.

assemblyWith the full support of Mrs Teresa Cooke, St Alban’s Headteacher, the G.I.F.T. team took the responsibility over the following weeks, for encouraging other children to:

  • write messages of hope and
  • participate in prayers organised by the team.

G.I.F.T. stands for Growing In Faith Together, a Chaplaincy type of initiative, which Shrewsbury Diocese has recently launched in 5 of its schools (4 Primary – St Alban’s; St Bernadette; St Mary’s; St Paul’s, and 1 Secondary All Hallows). It is aimed at children who have already received their First Communion, and at present at St Alban’s there are 5 Year 5 and 1 Year 6 girls making up the team led by Mrs Mónika Zorengi. They meet for 20 min every Friday lunchtime.

With the cooperation of teachers (Mrs Rhodes from Year 6 in particular), the team not only wrote messages themselves, but invited friends to do so. In total the G.I.F.T. team, gathered 40 cards, which they were very happy to pass onto to me on Monday 24 October, when I was invited back to the school.

In October they also organised occasions of prayer for the refugees. As October is the month of the Rosary, they prayed the whole rosary over three lunchtimes. They chose rosary-of-lightsto meditate on the Mysteries of Light, and they would switch on a candle every time they prayed either ‘Our Father’, ‘Hail Mary’ or ‘Glory be…’. As they were in the playground ‘building’ the rosary as they prayed everyone who wanted to join them was made welcome and at times they had more than 20 children praying together. It was at such times that some children also wrote their messages of hope.

One more idea from one of the girls in the G.I.F.T. team was to use the picture of the Lampedusa Cross to finish their rosary, as a reminder that their prayers were being offered up for the refugees.

It was simply wonderful for me to have had this opportunity. Thank you to all, especially Keith Taylor, and Bridget Fenwick for this!