Ambassadors’s challenge

IMG_3098A group of CAFOD Ambassadors ‘walked a mile’ in the shoes of an indigenous community ejected from their land by a logging company.

VinB trustees and supporters organised a simulation activity for CAFOD Ambassadors at Lee House. The simulation was based on the experience of indigenous communities living in the Amazon who face expulsion from their ancestral homelands by logging companies and land grabbers.

The simulation began with living the daily routines of the community, collecting fire wood, fetching water, making herbal medicine and shelters as well as entering into the ethos of a greater sense of connected-ness with all living beings.

The tranquility of oneness with nature was broken by the arrival of a logging company with documents that laid claim to vast areas of the forest. The felling of trees began as the community was ejected from the land. Imprisonment followed in the cold, dark cellar of the house. From the prison cell the community was marched to a court room where they defended their right to live in the disputed area of the rain forest.

“A truly transformative experience – thank you so much; Thanks for a fantastic experience;Thanks for an eye opening experience; Thank you for such a worthwhile and incredible; experience; Thank you so much for having us and giving us a very thought provoking personal experience; Thank you so much. It has been a heartfelt experience”
Just some of the comments received from the Ambassadors.




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A reflection on Davi Yanomami & Mauricio Ye’Kuana’s visit to Lee House

I had the privilege last Saturday of attending a CAFOD day hosting Davi Yanemami Kopenawa and Mauricio Ye’Kuana. These two men are key activists from indigenous tribes in the northern Brazilian Amazon, and vital members in CAFOD partner group Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY). Although they come from different tribes (Davi is from the Yanomami people, and Mauricio, the Ye’Kuana people), both are working for indigenous rights and the protection of the rainforest which is their home. I found these two men’s stories profoundly moving, not only for the work they do and the struggles they face, but maybe more especially for the wise understanding they have of their relationship to this world. This is an understanding we have a lot to learn from.

Lee House welcomes Davi & Mauricio

Lee House welcomes Davi & Mauricio

Davi and Mauricio’s talk wove the threads of a story which seems to have been lost in our Western world; a world of individualism, Cartesian dualism, separation, and ultimately disconnect. It might sound like a ‘new’ story to us, but in fact is a story that goes back to our source, to the beginning of time itself. This explains, I think, the resonance and draw it has for me. A book I am reading puts it beautifully: these stories ‘exemplify a way of being that we intuitively recognise and long for. They stir a memory in our hearts, and awaken a desire to return.’(Eisenstein, ‘The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible’).

Davi and Mauricio spoke of a ‘mother earth’ who cares for them as they care for her. This is a personal, reciprocal relationship. Both parties are living beings, responding to each other, as sacred, precious, and interdependent. We are all – the people, the creatures, the plants, the air, the water – strands in the great tapestry of life, whose thread is sacred, imbued with the divine. Matter and spirit are one. You and I are one. Humanity and creation are one. As such, what we do to any part of creation, we do to ourselves. A Native American leader, Chief Seattle puts this gracefully: ‘This we know: the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth. We did not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.’

This story of connectedness leads almost by definition to a very different way of living in the world, and one which doesn’t necessarily sit naturally alongside the industrialised, consumerist society that dominates today. I seem to inhabit a world of barriers to creation. I cover my skin with clothes, I put shoes between my feet and the ground, I live inside brick walls, I put text on a screen between me and others, I get my food from a sanitised, cooled supermarket shelf…the list could go on. Now you may point out, that living in the UK – if I didn’t do some of these things, I would be very cold and wet a lot of the time… but I do think there is an underlying point. In our western world, connection to creation, even to ourselves, isn’t obviously part of the set up, and so we might need to make a point of seeking creation out, in order to re-connect. Because until we re-connect, we are likely to continue cutting down trees, poisoning rivers and land with pesticides, buying the jewellery made from illegal gold-mining which is destroying the communities and forests of Davi and Mauricio.

So, what have I taken away from the testimony of these two men?

I think it is an invitation. To re-connect, to take off my shoes, to stand in the garden and feel this living, vibrant, sustaining ‘mother earth’ that I am a part of. I feel an invitation to get in touch with this sacred life that flows through all things, including myself, and which connects me, not only to this garden behind my house, or my family and friends, but also to Davi and Mauricio, to their communities, and to all people and life the world over. Imagine if our actions reflected this idea that we are all one body, all one world, all precious and sacred. Imagine the ripples that would spread.

Iona Reid-Dalglish

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Learning from the children

A wonderful lesson in the wise stewardship of creation was given to us  by the children from St Mary’s RC Primary School in Chipping,  as part of the  second  Hungry for Change Challenge days  funded by CAFOD and delivered by VinB trustees and volunteers.

The day began by introducing them to an indigenous culture in which all living things are seen as an integral part of their community, such that they name the trees, give thanks for all that nature provides and take from the natural world only what they need. A lovely example of how the children demonstrated their understanding of this deep respect for nature occurred  after they were introduced to ‘Chi Chi’ a chicken that was sitting  on six eggs.  When the time came for the children to hunt for food for lunch, and by this time they were very hungry, they took just three of the eggs leaving the other three to hatch and continue the cycle of life. Later they discovered that the market trader with whom they were bartering had taken the other three eggs. The children were outraged!  After telling the market trader what they thought of him they set about working as hard as they could to purchase the eggs. Having worked hard and forfeited food for themselves they bought the eggs and immediately returned them to the chicken.

The children went on to learn about land grabbing, unfair trading practices and the role international development agencies play in supporting the poor and marginalised.  They also taught us how readily children empathise with nature given the opportunities to do so.

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A big thank you


The children of St John’s Catholic Primary School in Chorlton, Manchester exceeded all expectations by raising  £1,750 for the Living & Learning Programme (L&L) in Rio de Janeiro.

Guided by their teachers, Mrs Frances Taylor and Miss Clare Seccombe, the children sang, danced, and through role play, demonstrated to Anne Wilson from CAFOD Salford and Joe Howson from Volunteer in Brazil how they had raised such a fantastic amount of money.

Mrs Taylor and Miss Seccombe have first hand experienced of the L&L programme and it is through their energy, enthusiasm and dedication that the children where able to channel all their creative energies into supporting the children of Rio.  Two fantastic assemblies, delivered in Rio like temperatures, were a joy to behold.

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The Monkey and the Fish

At a recent CAFOD event, Geoff O’Donoghue (CAFOD’s director of International Division) told a story that helps us to think critically about our role in development.

There was a beautiful valley through which flowed a river. Storm after storm raged over the valley and the waters rose flooding everything. A monkey sought safety in the canopy of the trees. The waters kept rising. As the waters reached the canopy the money became aware of a large fish that was struggling to swim against the force of the torrent. Moved by compassion the monkey reached into the waters and lifted the fish to ‘safety’ in the branches of the tree – where the fish died.

You can spend hours unpacking this story – it can teach us a great deal about our approach to development and aid. Do you have any reflections?

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Taking to the Streets

ifVINBlondonSmWe need to be the change that the world needs!

Volunteer in Brazil trustees along with CAFOD supporters from Clitheroe and many thousands more in Hyde Park joined the IF Campaign to call on world leaders to create a more just and sustainable world. It would seem that across the globe people are taking to the streets to demand change. Our present world order of putting profit before people has to change if we are to create a world in which all people can live dignified and fulfilling lives in harmony with the natural world.

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Powering up smallholder farmers

As part of Fairtrade Fortnight, CAFOD have published a report which highlights five ways that smallholder farmers can be empowered.  The third way highlights the need for access to timely and affordable credit, which is the aspiration behind our Micro Loan scheme.

Powering up Smallholder Farmers to Make Food Fair

foodFairfocuses on the 500 million women and men who produce 70 per cent of the world’s food but who make up half the world’s hungry people. The report says that even when smallholder farmers are producing cash crops at the sharp end of lucrative international supply chains, the global food system still fails them.

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