On 26 February CAFOD will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Family Fast Day, now called Lent Fast Day.
It is a great milestone for us. During this time - with tremendous support from parishes, schools, religious orders and catholic organisations in England and Wales - we’ve managed to raise over £65 million from our Fast Days, donations that have been used for healthcare, education, and justice projects transforming the lives of millions of people living in poor communities from Bolivia and Bangladesh, to Nigeria and Nicaragua.
For this special anniversary year, we’re inviting people to journey with CAFOD through the season of Lent with a focus on transforming the lives of others. The message is very simple: “Give it up!”, a theme reflected in all the materials we are distributing this year which includes the ever popular money box.
Our building blocks are four small brightly-coloured envelopes, each with a different suggestion of what to give up. The envelopes share examples of how the money raised will help to transform the lives of families by providing the things they desperately need. Essentials such as safe, clean water, tools and seeds to grow food, materials to build themselves secure homes, and much more.
One of the envelopes poses the challenge: “Could you turn biscuits into bicycles this Lent?”. The design is a bike with ‘biscuit’ wheels and it illustrates one of the many ways CAFOD transforms lives with your help – providing a bike to enable a health care volunteer to reach children who have lost their parents and are struggling to cope alone. Other challenges include giving up wine and transforming it into clean, safe water or donating the money you save by fasting a day or week during Lent and transforming it into nutritional food for a family.
These are just examples, you could give up anything!
I have seen firsthand the results of what your support has helped to achieve. Most memorable for me was a visit to an isolated community in Nicaragua where with the technical help of our partner organisation there, John XXIII Institute, the villagers built their own clean water supply. Instead of having to bathe in muddy pools or drink polluted water used by their livestock, they were able to benefit from something we all take for granted every day. It has transformed the lives of these men, women and children, not only improving their health but also giving them greater dignity. I shall never forget the generosity of these wonderful people who had so little, it has made me think about how much I could give in comparison.
Perhaps that’s why I’m going to choose ‘changing wine into water’ this Lent as my personal Lent offering - a real challenge for 40 days and nights, particularly as I like a relaxing glass of wine! But having seen the difference it could make, this sacrifice will be nothing.
We hope so much that by launching Give it up!, we will be able to reach out to many thousands of Catholics and inspire and motivate them in bringing about a more just world.
CAFOD Lent Fast Day is Friday 26th February - to find out more about ‘give it up’ you can go on line: www.cafod.org.uk/giveitup or you can get in touch with your local parish contact
Sophie Stanes is Head of Community Fundraising at CAFOD