We are delighted to welcome our Step into the Gap volunteer Sophie Aulton, back to the Leeds Volunteer Centre. In her own words, Sophie gave us an update about her international trip, “I didn’t have any thoughts of El Salvador before I went. I couldn’t imagine what life would be like so far away. My first impression of El Salvador is when I got out of the airport. It was so hot, and noisy, like going into a tropical bird sanctuary.
I wasn’t prepared for how hilly it was! One of the best schemes I visited was CAFODs project in Guaymango, where the community were supported in bee keeping. The reason I really liked this was because you could really see the difference that CAFOD was making. By teaching people new bee keeping methds, they could produce more honey, that they could eat themselves and sell as well.
I met lots of inspirational people, with great passion and drive and that made me think about how I could do more with the resources I have at home. I would love to keep bees at the bottom of my garden. Of all the people I met, one person sticks out in my mind, Feliciano, he was Edelmera’s brother in law. He showed us all around his land and gave us coconuts that he and his brother Martir had just climbed up the tree to get. He showed us his bee hives. We spent the afternoon with Him, his wife carmen, Edelmera and Martir, which is the best afternoon I had in the whole trip.
I spent some time with local school children and brought the hearts with messages from Holy Name Primary School and told them children in Year 3,4 and 5 were thinking about them and praying for them. The children in the class in El Salvador wrote messages back. It is important to let the children know that they are connected in this way. It has a really big impact.
We visited the site of the Romero Cross workshops, I even got to make my own. Romero crosses have been such a symbol of CAFOD, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have one so it was an amazing opportunity to see how they were made and to get to make one myself! Poverty is caused in the rural area by harsh weather conditions and changing weather patterns. Everyone in El Salvador was so happy and grateful for the things they had, even when they were telling us about their hardships, they would still say ‘thanks be to god’ and be so thankful that they were still alive and surrounded by people they love.
My first impression of Nicaragua, was how open Managua was as a city. There were large open spaces which was the complete opposite of San Salvador. I don’t see it as learning about myself, I see it as more broadening my horizons of understanding. I didn’t see the trip as a journey of self discovery, more a journey of discovering others. Doing craft with the old people in San Salvador. I never thought that me making cards at home and learning how to cut out shapes would ever come in useful on the other side of the world, but the fact that it did really showed me how similar our countries are”
If you would like Sophie to visit your parish or school to hear more about the CAFOD supported projects and partners she visited, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or call (0113) 275 9302.
Sophie has taken a year out to volunteer for CAFOD as a ‘gapper’ along with several other young people on CAFOD’s gap year programme, which gives them an opportunity to volunteer in the UK, gain experience, develop leadership skills and visit CAFOD partners and the communities we work with.
If you would like to know more about CAFOD’s Step Into the Gap scheme click here