Madeline looks back on her Gap year with CAFOD

We’re now in the last month of my year on CAFOD’s Step into the Gap Programme, and what a year it’s been! From school visits to vegetable quizzes, prayer breakfasts in Leeds to sitting around a fire in Moroto, Uganda, not many can claim that their last year has been so varied!

Madeline Woods with Nicole, Clementina in Uganda

Nicole, Clementina and myself. Clementina is a midwife in a health centre which is supported by CAFOD in Moroto, Uganda. She gives everything she can to her community without a second thought, including ripping up her own bedsheets to make baby blankets!

I have had so many opportunities this year that I never would have had otherwise. My trip to Uganda is the obvious big one, and the things I saw, experienced and learned on that trip will undoubtedly stay with me for the rest of my life. I have been on BBC Radio Leeds 3 times, something which this time last year would have been unimaginable. I have stood in front of a room of 180 Year 7s and spoken about CAFOD without so much as a quiver in my voice, which again, a year ago, would have had me a nervous wreck. I’ve met so many incredible people through CAFOD and through my placement at Leeds Trinity University, and am certain that I have made friends for life. My office at my placement is right next to a beautiful Chapel, too, meaning that whenever I fancy, I can pop in and take some time to sit in the quiet. My faith has developed so much from this, from having conversations with the Chaplaincy team and experiencing retreat opportunities like Youth 2000, and I am going to be leaving this role a more well-rounded and confident person.

Madeline Woods with LTU hannah and Sisters thumbs up and recycle coffee cups

Myself, Hannah (the Chaplain at Leeds Trinity), Sister Catherine Mary and Sister Thérèse at Tea on the Landing, celebrating the launch of our recyclable cups and adding our thumbs-ups to the banner for the Climate Change Lobby on June 26th.

I would like to think that I’m not the only person who has benefitted from my year as a CAFOD Gapper, as I have spoken to many people about the work that CAFOD do and what they can do to make their world a better place – with a month left to go, the official number of people I have spoken to about CAFOD is at over 1,000!


I’ll take this opportunity to thank everyone I have met throughout the last year. Leeds Trinity University Chaplaincy, everyone at Trinity, my fellow gappers, CAFOD Leeds, broader CAFOD staff and volunteers… the list goes on!


On to the next adventure…

Click the link if you would like to know more about CAFOD’s gap year programme Step into the Gap or call (0113) 275 9302 to speak to Bronagh.

CAFOD supporters show their support for Syria’s refugees by meeting local MP

Caitlin, Fabian and Shona at the Syria event in north Leeds

Caitlin, Fabian and Shona at the Syria event in north Leeds

Fabian Hamilton MP for Leeds North East met with CAFOD supporters on Tuesday to talk about the impact of aid agencies in Syria. It has been over a year since the formal launch of the CAFOD Syria Crisis Appeal and people from across the Diocese of Leeds have responded generously to help their brothers and sisters affected by the crisis. CAFOD supporters from across the diocese have raised more than £66,000 in support of the appeal.

Mr Hamilton, a member of the international development committee, recently returned from Lebanon and Syria. He offered to share his experiences after Chris Feetenby, a parishioner at St John Mary Vianney, Moortown, commended his efforts in ensuring the government’s 0.7% commitment to overseas aid. The talk was kindly hosted at the parish of St John Mary Vianney, who have raised over £1,000 so far in support of the Syria Crisis Appeal.

Fabian spoke of the importance of the UK’s commitment to overseas aid. He told the audience that educating people to understand that international development aid is a priority was key to tackling opposition to it.

He said: “We can all be proud that our money is being spent wisely. Food parcels became very inadequate as Syrians love cooking. The decision to give Syrians a card to buy food means that some kind of normal routine is re-established.”

Two young students, Shona and Caitlin, from the CAFOD group at Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School, took the opportunity to challenge Fabian on important issues.

Shona asked her MP how DFID can use its leadership position in the international community to encourage other countries to pledge similar levels of humanitarian aid to Syria and the region.

In response, Fabian said: “Our example is one to other countries. We are showing the rest of the world what can be done.”

Caitlin was interested in what additional support the UK could offer to those forced to flee their homes. Fabian said that he was not persuaded that if we open our doors thousands it would be right, but he supported the idea of the UNHCR having more resources to identify those who would benefit from psychological, medical or other help overseas.

Anne Street, Head of Humanitarian Policy at CAFOD, recently returned from Syria and also spoke at the event.

Fabian Hamilton and Anne Street answering questions form CAFOD supporters

Fabian Hamilton and Anne Street answering questions form CAFOD supporters

Ben Oldham, CAFOD manager for Leeds, said: “This event demonstrated to the elected representative the tremendous support, enthusiasm and dedication of CAFOD’s volunteers in the Leeds diocese. The conflict in Syria has resulted in the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. People have come here tonight to remind their MP of the responsibility of the government to help those in need.”

As well as providing opportunities for a face-to-face meeting with a Member of Parliament, the event gave Fabian a collective view of CAFOD’s work. It demonstrated to him firsthand the tremendous support, enthusiasm and dedication of CAFOD volunteers and supporters.

Learn more about supporting CAFOD as an MP Correspondent, by working with MP’s to petition them on issues that affect the poorest people of the world.