James Ronan is taking part in the CAFOD Step into the Gap programme. He tells us about his year so far and expectations for visiting Cambodia.
For the first term of the Step into the Gap programme, I have been based at St Mary’s Catholic Academy in Blackpool. It has been a really exciting! In October, the chaplaincy team Brightened Up for Harvest with a week of fundraising, which culminated in a Staff Talent Show. Later on that month, I helped organise a sixth form Climate Change Debate with two local MPs, Paul Maynard and Gordon Marsden, for the CAFOD Speak Up Week of Action. In November, we held our Act of Kindness week, this coincided with having the pilgrim statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in school, for the end of the Year of Mercy.
This month, I have the incredible opportunity to visit Cambodia and see the work of CAFOD’s partner organisations, helping our Cambodian brothers and sisters to build God’s kingdom here on Earth.
I researched CAFOD’s projects in Cambodia. During this time, I learnt about cultural similarities and differences between the UK and Cambodia. I shared what I learnt with pupils at Christ the King Primary School, in Year 5 and Year 6. The pupils were very enthusiastic to hear the CAFOD story about a boy called Butterfly. They engaged with the story and were keen to discover the cultural and development similarities and differences between the UK and Cambodia.
I am excited about revisiting the school when I come back, to share what I have experienced in Cambodia and the important human stories of CAFOD’s work in the country.
I am eager to experience Cambodian culture, meeting different people, tasting their food, seeing amazing landscapes and wildlife. Most of all I am excited to be visiting CAFOD partners and witnessing the impact they have made in country.
I have never learnt a second language before. This trip has inspired me to learn Khmer, a dialect spoken in the areas of Cambodia that I will be visiting. I have started watching YouTube videos to try and learn phrases, to connect with the people I will be visiting, which I think is important.
I will be visiting a variety of projects, including water and sanitation projects (WASH), and Sre Khmer a Cambodian agricultural NGO, as well as a Village Support Group. I will have the opportunity to live in solidarity with Cambodians, walking with them in their daily lives.
I also look forward to sharing messages from parishes, which are being sent to Cambodia through CAFOD’s Cambodian Connect2 project. Local parishioners have a global impact, I’m really looking forward to seeing the impact that CAFOD supporters have made in Cambodia.
I look forward to sharing the important stories of CAFOD’s work with the Catholic community here in England and Wales on my return and inspiring others to put their faith into action. I am now based within the Clifton Diocese, so am keen to share my experiences with local parishes here, in particular.