CAFOD’s Harvest Fast Day: Friday the 3rd of October

I don’t ‘work the land’ so I often feel a little distant from ‘Harvest Time’. The closest I get these days to that feeling of harvest is either pay-day or the day I do a ‘big shop’, stocking up the cupboards. Around harvest time I do notice that certain fruit or veg are cheaper and more abundant in the shops but that’s about it. Harvest is a time of joy, abundance and hard work. We are joyful at the gifts which God gives to us through the land (fruit of the earth, work of our hands). We are hopefully experiencing the abundance of creation which provides enough food for everyone (though I hear from the seminary that it wasn’t a good season for their apples this year). We also need to work hard to bring in the harvest. Admittedly, probably most of us aren’t actually working out in the fields but the start of the new school term and the return to work is hard enough for many. I wonder if modern day equivalent of hard work is busyness.

Mayling and her cousins laughed when they saw her in last year's primary schools Harvest Fast Day poster

Mayling and her cousins laughed when they saw her in last year’s primary schools Harvest Fast Day poster

CAFOD always celebrates Harvest Fast Day on the first Friday of October, a day where we ask people to share the harvest and remember those who live in poverty. The last few years we have been very much focussed on water and sanitation and then food. Because of people’s generosity and prayer hundreds of thousands more people have access to basics like potable water, improved sanitation and hygeine. CAFOD programmes in Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Niger and many other countries have made a difference to the food security of thousands of families. People in England and Wales have responded generously to the shocking fact that there is enough food for all people in the world but still 1 person in 8 will go to bed hungry tonight. Their generosity has made a big difference. You may remember Mayling from Nicaragua who featured in our Harvest Fast Day 2013. She is doing well, making friends at secondary school and is enjoying learning Maths and English.

We try to give examples of where we work and how we work and it is often difficult choosing from the many people and stories. Here are three brief accounts of how your generosity has made a difference:

Yehwah from Sierra Leone feeds 29 people every day. Caritas Kenema, CAFOD’s partner in Sierra Leone, has worked with Yehwah’s community on long term projects. One of these projects is a savings and loans scheme, which means Yehwah and others are able to buy food in the ‘hungry season’, and start a small business to save for the future. Despite being in an area where three out of five people live on less than a dollar a day, the community is thriving. Yehwah says: “Without it, life would be very difficult. We would find it hard to send our children to school and to get through the hungry season”.

Martha, who is 80 from Zimabawe, now has access to water. Previously she had to walk 15km to collect water, and was not well enough to travel for water every day. But, Caritas Hwange, CAFOD’s partner in Zimabwe, installed a piped water scheme and trained village health workers, and so Martha now have access to water. Martha says: “I now fetch water 200 metres away. I have more time to do gardening, farming and keep my home clean. I now have peace of mind unlike before”.

A pond from Martin's visit to Bangladesh. Ponds like this often provided the water for families or villages

A pond from Martin’s visit to Bangladesh. Ponds like this often provided the water for families or villages

Shefali and her son, Dipok, in Bangladesh, depended on pond water for drinking, and suffered from water-borne diseases. But, thanks to your donations, Caritas Bangladesh, CAFOD’s partner distributed rainwater harvesting systems to 50 female headed households. Shefali and her son received a tank to collect rain water, which is purified by a solar UV ray system, and so Shefali and Dipok now have access to clean, safe drinking water. Speaking about this, Shefali said: “I am happy to be able to turn on a tap so close to home and to be sure that I have safe water for drinking. I am grateful to Caritas Bangladesh for helping my family and me”.

Across the diocese Parish volunteers and school volunteers will be giving a short talk to highlight our work and to ask people to pray, to miss a meal or give something up (fast) and to donate to our work. People will be asked to make one off donations or to give regularly. Many parishes and schools will be holding harvest meals, soup lunches, and other special events to support us in our work and express solidarity for those in poverty. I think of this as a harvest of love; where we freely give because we have freely received; where we invite others to the banquet God has prepared for us; where we take a moment to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and remember that Jesus said that when we do this for the least of his brothers and sisters, we do it for him.

Thank you for your support and your prayers. They are making a big difference.

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