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UK - Volunteer - Hugh

Hugh is a parish volunteer for CAFOD.

Hugh is a parish volunteer and a lay chaplain at a Derby Primary School.

How did you first get involved with CAFOD?

CAFOD is something that has always been in my life, and as I’ve grown up and through my education I have learnt more about it.

The first time I heard of CAFOD was as a child at my home parish of Our Lady of Lourdes in Derby. It was something my family were always aware of and gave money to. I remember my Grandma always spoke to me about CAFOD, and educated me about their campaigns and Family Fast Days. I also heard more through school, in fundraising and GCSE resources.

As a young adult, I became involved with CAFOD again as a youth volunteer at St. Cassian’s retreat centre in Berkshire. There I was inspired to apply for CAFOD’s Step into the Gap program: I wanted make CAFOD a part of myself, and make the world a better place. I felt CAFOD gave me the opportunity to put my faith into action through giving, acting and praying.

How does your faith inspire your volunteering?

My faith required me to do something. It pushes me to give back, help people and to serve Christ, communities, people and the World. It reminds me of a song the children were singing this week at the school I work in:

“Jesus You can use my hands… Jesus You can use my feet… Jesus You can use my voice… Jesus You can use my life to serve you and praise you.”

Through CAFOD I can do that!

At the end of the day we are Christs ambassadors, and we are called out to be Missionary Disciples. What Jesus taught is all about love. When I think about giving and the work CAFOD does, it is love, giving and service.

My faith gives me eyes to see Christ in all things. Whether suffering marginalised those on the fringes of communities. Faith brings us together to be like Jesus in the world and my faith drives me and compels me to do that, it inspires me to care.

What's been the best thing about volunteering for CAFOD and why do you continue volunteering?

The best thing about volunteering with CAFOD is knowing that no matter how small you act, pray or give, you have always made a difference to either the world or a human life – a neighbour locally or globally.

I deeply care for the world and those who live in it, and that has only grown stronger through my experience with CAFOD and the work they do. It ties it all together, whether that’s writing to my MP, praying, or lifting a banner on a march – every little thing is an opportunity to make a difference.

It brings me back to ‘No one beyond reach’ – whenever I get an email about CAFOD activity, I always share it with the staff at school that I work with. Even asking others to join in might be a small drop in the ocean, but it’s making a difference and letting people know we can always show love, care and peace. It’s building God’s Kingdom on Earth, and no matter who you are you can always change the world for the better.

Doing even the smallest thing helps to make the world a better place. If you’re a humanitarian worker on the ground or a volunteer here in the UK, we all want the same thing! An example of that was in Summer 2023, when I travelled to World Youth Day. I visited ‘The City of Joy’, a market place of Catholic organisations from around the world, and met one of the volunteers at the Caritas Internationalis stall. We lived halfway across the world from each other, but had the same wishes, values, faith and aims.

What do you think is your greatest achievement and why?

Confidence and courage! Not that I had low confidence or courage before, but since volunteering with CAFOD its really developed it in a way I never thought it would. I wouldn’t have done all things I’ve done as a volunteer if I wasn’t supported through it all. It has given me confidence to speak out to people, whether that be partners, communities, or people in the march at the G7. I remember going up to random people on the beach in Cornwall at a demonstration organised by surfers saying, “Cancel the debt!!” and starting conversation - I never thought I would do that!

What message would you say to people considering volunteering?

Do it!!! Whatever is holding you back, whether that’s time, fear, confidence, or anything else, you are so, so supported by CAFOD through volunteering in any role. You’re never alone as a volunteer.

Without CAFOD I wouldn’t be where I am today. I don’t just mean that I wouldn’t be in the same job etc, but I wouldn’t be who I am today without CAFOD. Through the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met, and the support I’ve received from the relationship’s I’ve built, I have received confidence to be proud of who I am and the work I do. CAFOD and it’s values are a part of me, and have given strength, faith and courage. I have a gained a general passion and genuine interest in making a difference.

My advice to people considering volunteering would be that it doesn’t matter how small you start, its there, its a seed. You are still achieving something and making a difference to a fellow human being. Do it - you might learnt something more about yourself!