One of the things I love about working with CAFOD is hearing the stories of hope from projects overseas, and seeing photographs of CAFOD partners and their families. And so, when I found out that we were getting to spend two days with Julia and Fidel, partners from the Connect 2 El Salvador scheme, I was delighted. What made it even more exciting was that this is the first time that the El Salvador partners from Puentecitos were coming to the UK, and to North Wales!
CAFOD’s ‘Connect2‘ project creates communication and solidarity through linking communities in England and Wales with six communities in countries in the developing world. A ‘connect2’ parish learns how their support is making a difference by hearing directly from people in developing countries about their lives. Over time they get to know the individuals and discover how CAFOD and its partners are making an impact.
On Tuesday, 12th March, CAFOD staff and volunteers gathered at the Peace and Justice Centre for our monthly prayer meeting, where they welcomed Fidel and Julia to Wales. After prayer and reflection on the life of Oscar Romero, Fidel and Julia shared stories of their life in Puentecitos. Both Julia and Fidel are active in the village church, Julia sings in the church choir and Fidel runs a social ministry and raises funds to help sick and elderly people in Puentecitos.
Later in the day Fidel and Julia met with parishioners from St Mary’s parish church in Ruabon, which is unique in that it is a shared church, with both the Anglican and Catholic communities sharing the building, and operating under one parish council. Over a shared meal and home made cakes prepared by two communities, Fidel and Julia listened to the interesting history of St Marys, and answered questions about life in Puentecitos. A traditional Welsh Love Spoon was among the gifts presented from the Parish for Fidel and Julia to take back to their church.
Wednesday was another busy day in North Wales were the day started with Julia and Fidel visiting a Community Supported Agriculture Scheme in Cilcain, Flintshire, which was set up in 2010. Rachel and Simon Farr, the growers, were surprised at how many parallels there are between the two projects. Fidel was full of praise for the work and encourage them: “When I see this it makes me feel really happy, because in no time you will be reaping your success!” Fidel also explained: “We do not have a lot of money to buy medicine, so we have a special plot in the garden, where we grow medicinal plants”.
In the afternoon they had an opportunity to visit St. David’s Primary school and their outdoor class room; they shared stories and songs from their community with the children, who in return sang some hymns to them and gave them a Welsh flag to take home to Puentecitos. An unexpected surprise came when we found out that one of the students was fluent in Spanish, and so became our guide round the school, this is what he had to say: “I was lucky enough to show two visitors from El Salvador around our school, Fidel and Julia. My job was to translate English to Spanish and Spanish to English to help our visitor understand what type of subjects we do and how we learn in these subjects. I enjoyed when I was speaking Spanish to Julia and Fidel. I would love to do something like this again as it gives me the opportunity to meet different people from around the world.”
CAFOD’s Manager for the North Wales area, Katja Jewell said: “It was wonderful to have Julia and Fidel coming to spend time with us. I know that the people of North Wales were delighted to meet them and hearing their inspiring stories. Puentecitos means ‘little bridges’ in Spanish, so we’re hoping that Julia and Fidel and CAFOD supporters here will be able to build big bridges, finding what we all have in common and deepening our sense of mutual understanding.”
Fidel and Julia’s time in North Wales concluded with the school and church community of St David’s, Mold, gathering for Stations of the Cross. Julia and Fidel’s presentation was interrupted as it was announced ‘habemus papam’- ‘we have a Pope’, as news came from Rome that a Pope had been chosen, taking the name Pope Francis I. Fidel commented that he sees the world as without barriers or borders, and I think that view was shared by all in St David’s, and is a night that we will all remember for a long time.
Thank you to everyone for your contribution in making this such a memorable and happy occasion.