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Cry of the earth, cry of the poor

On a cloudy autumnal day Sr Clara, a Sister of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, brightened the spirits of nearly sixty people from across the diocese, when she addressed a meeting at the Church of Christ the King in Cockfosters, CAFOD’s base in the diocese. Speaking with great warmth and clarity and thanking CAFOD volunteers, she painted an inspiring picture of the transformation the agency had made possible in the lives of thousands of poor people in her home country, Zambia.

Her account was one of deep faith and courage in going against the grain, in confronting immense problems, and in succeeding beyond all expectations. In the 1980s when challenged by the calamities of the AIDS epidemic and rapid climate change, her sisters had tended the sick and dying. In the early 1990s, and with CAFOD’s help, they built a community school for orphans and other vulnerable children to teach them practical skills. Now grown up, these children are able to support themselves and their families, and to continue their education. More recently, with the introduction of life-saving retroviral drugs, CAFOD has supported projects in Zambia which help her sisters to restore to people with HIV/AIDS self-esteem and confidence through training.

Sr Clara said that her order had a record of tackling problems that others would not. They had been the first to provide schools for girls in Zambia in the 1950s. Then they had gone against the mindset of the times by opening schools for children with special needs whom many in rural Zambia regarded as cursed. With the help of CAFOD, they are giving hope, employable skills and confidence in the future to many.

The Church in Zambia, rooted in the lives of the poor, was one of the first voices to raise alarm about climate change. Before 2003, the vital rains came to Zambian farmers precisely on 24th October every year. Since then, there has been no pattern in the timing or the quantity of the rain, and last year the late arrival of floods ruined the harvest. With CAFOD’s help Zambian farmers have been switching from growing maize to growing pumpkins, which are better suited to the new conditions.

The inspirational account given by Sr Clara and the great warmth of her gratitude to the CAFOD volunteers was the perfect feedback to all who support CAFOD’s twice-yearly Family Fast Days.

Tony Sheen, the Community Participation Coordinator, told the volunteers that the magnificent sum of £4.274 million raised from the Lent appeal is being used to bring relief to people affected by Typhoon Ompong in the Philippines, the floods in Kerala and tsunami in Indonesia. CAFOD is also using a matching sum provided by the British Government to combat child malnutrition in Zimbabwe.