CAFOD Presentation at Harvest Mass October 2009 by Zoe Lavery                                                                                                      

Be a Leader Today, for Tomorrow May Never Come.

On Saturday 3rd October and Sunday 4th October, Zoe Lavery spoke at all the masses about the work of CAFOD in Kenya. She began by reminding us of CAFOD’s Fast Day and asked for our support with this appeal. The 10.30am mass on Sunday was a special Harvest Mass where she addressed the children. This is an extract of what Zoe said to the children

‘‘I went there to visit some young boys and girls who we work with, and who live in a slum called Korogocho.  It’s a very poor part of a city where there is no running water, so there are no baths or showers or even toilets in the houses and the houses themselves are very small and made out of plastic sheeting and corrugated iron.  There is normally just one room in each house where the whole family has to live- so in most of the houses in Korogocho there are five or six people living in each room.There are no proper roads, just muddy paths that are covered in litter and the houses so close together that police or ambulances can’t get in to the slums.  Until recently there were no lights in the streets either so once darkness fell people had to stay inside as it was too dangerous to go out.

I also want to introduce you to Felix, a young youth leader working in the slums.  We asked him what message he would like to send for young people back in England.  He said:

..People say you‘re a leader of tomorrow, wait for tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes. That’s why I say to young people be leaders today…wherever you are you can always do something to make a difference to someone’s’ life, wherever you are no matter how small it is just do it…

These words from Felix were a powerful call to action for me that day in the slums of Nairobi and will continue to be so.’’

Here is what Zoe had to say at the other masses…

 ‘‘As for many individuals and organisations in Britain the financial crisis has been at the forefront of CAFOD’s concerns, because for those with whom we work, those who are already living in extreme poverty the financial crisis has had a horrific effect.  

Severe food shortages, price rises and job losses have left up to 90 million more people struggling to feed themselves and their families – bringing the total number in extreme poverty to one-quarter of the world’s population. 

To keep their heads above water, millions have to sell everything they own, including what they rely on to make a living. Parents cannot afford to send their children to school and child labour is increasing. Illness is crippling entire communities because healthcare is now a luxury few can afford.

This is the situation for Margaret from Nairobi, who is on the some of the posters around the church.  She lost her job, then weeks later, while violence ripped through the streets as hopes of a fair election were torn apart, Margaret’s house was burned to the ground.  With no job and little money she was forced to move into one of the city’s slums.    

I visited some of our partners working in the slums of Nairobi last summer so can share a little with you of what it is like there.

We visited Kibera, a slum with high unemployment, bad sanitation, no running water, and which houses 1 million people in a few square kilometers in corrugated shacks were large families live together in one room. On the other side of Nairobi we visited Korogocho, not too dissimilar from Kibera but with the added dimension of an immense dump in which children rummaged for any item that might be salvaged for sale on the city’s streets.  Both had also been touched by the post election violence and we walked around the slum, seeing the burnt out, empty houses that too had been targeted during the violence and whose inhabitants were still living in the displaced persons camps, still too fearful to return to their homes.  Having seen the awful conditions for those living in the slums and the intensity with which they were working to improve the situation of their communities, it is hard for me to think that so many more people are being forced into living there because of the current economic situation.

While struggling people like Margaret in the cities move into the slums, in the hot, dry North East of the country there is a severe drought which has resulted in almost total failure of harvests in many areas, another saddening report when we here are celebrating harvest.  Thus it is crucial for CAFOD to provide food aid and access to safe drinking water for those affected.  But CAFOD is not immune to the effects of the recession either.  Due to high exchange rates in many countries aid is worth almost one-third less than it was last year.  Funds are stretched to the limit but we absolutely can’t give up on the poorest when they need us the most.’’

After the Harvest Mass, The Care Group had organised a Cake Sale in the hall to raise funds for CAFOD. 

Later, Zoe also gave an excellent presentation in the church hall showing us how these people lived and how they have benefitted from CAFOD’S work. She also spoke at length about ways in which parishes across the country may like to help and support the people of Kenya in the future. Maybe we need to act as Felix said and be leaders today, for tomorrow may never come. 

You will see some photos that I took of the Harvest Mass and the Cake Sale.

Monica Fernandes.

And finally from Zoe,

‘’Thank you for inviting me to come and talk to you, and thank you for all you have already done for CAFOD, for your fundraising and campaigning efforts and for all your prayers.’’