A Volunteer’s Experience at CAFOD

ImageI  first heard of CAFOD at the University of York Chaplaincy and was really interested in the work they are doing in York. I’d known about the work CAFOD does for years but had never been directly involved. I thought that now that I’m at university that this was something I’d like to look into. I first got in contact in November 2011 when I contacted Carol Cross in the CAFOD Middlesbrough office. I was immediately impressed at how much seems to go on with CAFOD and how much good work is done in the community.

My part only really started in January 2012 when we started planning for the Thirst for Change campaign. It was quite daunting to be on the other end of a campaign like that. I’d helped out at charity stalls before but I’d never gone through the entire campaign process from start to finish. It was completely controlled by us the students and while we had guidance, it was down to us to make the decisions and make sure everything that needed to be done was done.

The plan was to have a card signing event in the city centre, at York St John’s University and at the University of York. In the planning stages I was responsible for contacting the council for permission to hold the stall in York city centre and organise the stall at the University of York with another volunteer Patrick Kinsella. Initially we worked on publicizing the event but as this was still roughly a month before the event was to take place, there didn’t seem like that much to do.

As this was only my first event and Patrick’s second, we slightly underestimated the amount of preparation required. It got to 2 weeks before the event and we realised we had a fair amount to do. I did feel the pressure at that point (and a little bit of guilt that I’d been a little lazy) and it seemed like I’d been thrown it at the deep end and it would all go horribly wrong.

However on the day everything went to plan, the stall was set up and we were ready to go. All the stress of the previous weeks disappeared when we started engaging with the students who were as concerned as we were about the problems of water poverty and water sanitation. We even had a few students stay and help us on the stall. Then the water droplet costume came out – and you can’t possibly feel stressed dressed in a ridiculous fancy dress costume for charity.

The final result was that York St John’s University gave out around 400 campaign cards and the University of York gave out around 500. Unfortunately the stall in York city centre was rained off and when trying to reschedule, the council had started building work on the charity stall site we were planning to use. However you can always dwell on the negatives – at the end of the day nearly 1000 campaign cards given out (and hopefully signed) is an amazing feat. It was definitely worth the little bit of stress that was felt being thrown in at the deep end.

In the future I would definitely run more campaigns for CAFOD, and now that I know what is required, I will hopefully be more organised. The satisfaction of running a successful campaign for a good cause though means that I would recommend anyone remotely interested in voluntary work to give it a go.

Nicholas Webster

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