Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Gifts of Time and Money

In the UK, the 1st – 12th June is designated ‘Volunteers’ Week’ (www.volunteersweek.org/- 12 days maybe seems like only a week when you are having fun volunteering!) and, like so many organisations, SURVIVE-MIVA could not function as effectively as it does without the support of volunteers. Thank you one and all!

The main volunteer role at SURVIVE-MIVA (although occasionally we have office volunteers doing administrative tasks) is that of ‘Speaker’. We have about 50 people (dotted across England, Wales and Scotland) in this role, which involves making appeals at Sunday Masses in Catholic Parishes. We know, from the feedback we receive, that our volunteers gain a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment from making appeals and visiting different parishes, but we also know that they put up with many inconveniences (including early starts on a Sunday morning!) as they inspire others to engage with our work and raise funds for the charity.

In 2015 there were around 250 parish appeals for SURVIVE-MIVA and our Speakers must, therefore, have addressed several thousand people in the year. As a result of their work many people: signed up to receive our twice-yearly magazine, Awareness; prayed for SURVIVE-MIVA’s work and that of our overseas’ beneficiaries; and made a donation to support the Association.  The income we received in 2015 from Parish appeals was just over £115,500, which is approximately 19% of total income for that year.

An additional source of income from parish appeals comes from the Gift Aid scheme. Our Speakers encourage any UK tax payers in the congregation to Gift Aid their donations and this really does make a difference to the Association’s income each year. During ‘Volunteers’ Week’ we submitted a Gift Aid claim to the Inland Revenue (amounting to over £18,000 for donations received over 6 months) and this  prompted me to look again at the draft version of SURVIVE-MIVA’s  Trustees’ Report & Accounts for 2015 (draft because it has yet to be approved by members and, hopefully, they will do this at SURVIVE-MIVA’s Annual General Meeting on 23rd June) to remind myself of the Gift Aid income we will receive for donations made during 2015: the Gift Aid scheme yielded £40,531 for SURVIVE-MIVA in 2015, which is 7% of total income in 2015.

The total funds transferred overseas in 2015 amounted to some £286,731, which means that we could say that 40% of the vehicles funded by SURVIVE-MIVA in 2015 were paid for by appeals' income and 14% of the vehicles were paid for by Gift Aid income! 

You can learn more about:

a) being a SURVIVE-MIVA Speaker here: www.survive-miva.org/Involved.htm

As 'Volunteers' Week' in the UK ended, 'Laudato Si Week' began (an international event running from 12 - 19 June 2016). 'Laudato Si Week' has been set up to mark the first anniversary of the release (on 18th June 2015) of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si': On Care for our Common Home. In this encyclical the Pope calls on us to take action and, if you would like any ideas on how you can get involved, you can find out more at: www.catholicclimatemovement.global/act/.

One of the actions on the Catholic Climate Movement website is signing a petition to be sent to local, national and international leaders, calling on them to honour commitments made at the Climate Summit in Paris in December 2015 (representatives of the governments of more than 190 countries attended). The text of the petition is:
Climate change affects everyone, but especially the poor and most vulnerable people among us. Inspired by Pope Francis and the Laudato Si' encyclical, we call on you to drastically cut carbon emissions to keep the global temperature rise below the dangerous 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold, and to aid the world's poorest in coping with climate change impacts.

I’ve just signed the petition and invite you to do the same – surely a good use of our time?

Theresa Codd
Assistant Director (Development), SURVIVE-MIVA

Monday, 10 August 2015

Life in all its Fullness

I recently spent a weekend at Wistaston Hall, Crewe (www.orc-crewe.org/wistaston-hall/) at the Oblate Summer School.  The theme of the weekend was ‘Standing on their Shoulders’ and the sessions were led by Edwina Gateley, a fascinating woman who hails from Lancaster. Edwina founded the Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM) and she now lives in the USA where she reaches out to women in drugs and prostitution – see her website: www.edwinagateley.com. Over the weekend Edwina shared stories of a number of extraordinary women, whose lives have made, and continue to make, a lasting impact on our world – environmentalists, martyrs, reformers, mystics and writers.

One of the women whose story Edwina shared was Brenda Myers-Powell.  Brenda suffered sexual abuse in her childhood and went on to become a prostitute for 25 years until, one day, seriously injured after being thrown out of a car and dragged along the ground, she asked God to help her - she ended up in a ‘safe house’ run by Edwina. Brenda experienced compassion and healing and, in 2008, this strong woman together with another, Stephanie Daniels-Wilson, founded the Dreamcatcher Foundation (http://thedreamcatcherfoundation.org/), which fights to end human trafficking in Chicago. Brenda’s moving account of her life can be read here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33113238.

Women's Crisis Drop-in Centre with the
SURVIVE-MIVA funded van outside.
Hearing and reading about Brenda’s life and Edwina’s role in it brought to mind the work of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Cagayan de Oro, the Philippines (featured in issue 57 of SURVIVE-MIVA’s magazine, Awareness: http://www.survive-miva.org/downloads/Awareness57.pdf). The Sisters run a Women’s Crisis Centre, which provides shelter for women and children at risk from human-trafficking gangs. I reproduce here, once again, the words of Sr. Leah Ann Espina, Director of the Centre: “Being the most industrial city in the region, the urban sprawl and poverty is enormous, and the lack of available jobs means that combined with limited education, many young women and children are forced into prostitution and begging, becoming victims of illegal ‘recruiters’ who promise a better future for them. In reality, they end up trafficked to other parts of the country or even to neighbouring countries on falsified documents, and our interviews with them reveal that ninety percent of them have been abused in some form in their home villages and family environments before they came to the big city – they mistakenly see it as a form of escape.”

A SURVIVE-MIVA grant of £10,800 enabled the Sisters to purchase a van to tour the slum areas i
The Sisters with the SURVIVE-MIVA funded van
on the day of its delivery.
n order 
to educate women on their dignity, rights and responsibilities, and also to take the women & children staying at the Women’s Crisis Centre for medical check-ups, court hearings, activities outside the Centre and for home visitations.

The Good Shepherd Sisters face many difficulties (even death threats from organised criminals) but they are determined to support the women and children who are in danger. As Sr. Leah Ann told SURVIVE-MIVA, the Women’s Crisis Centre is there to:
‘Seek ways and means for girls and women to be liberated from all forms of exploitation, abuse and discrimination and to take opportunities to enjoy
 fullness of life.’

As Brenda Myers-Powell affirms:-

"So I am here to tell you - there is life after so much damage, there is life after so much trauma. There is life after people have told you that you are nothing, that you are worthless and that you will never amount to anything. There is life - and I'm not just talking about a little bit of life. There is a lot of life."

As Jesus promises (John 10: 10-11):-

'The thief comes only to steal and destroy.
I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.'

Volunteer Women Advocates pose with the new van from SURVIVE-MIVA
after a monthly meeting at the Drop-in Centre.
Theresa Codd
Assistant Director (Development), SURVIVE-MIVA

Monday, 1 December 2014

Roving Saints and Sisters

On 15th October 2014, the Church began a year long celebration to mark the 5th centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila (28th March 1515). St. Teresa was a woman of wisdom, a mystic and contemplative who taught others how to pray (she said “prayer is an act of love, words are not needed”) - prayer was at the heart of her life. However, St. Teresa was also an active woman, a tireless traveller (she has been named ‘the roving nun’) who founded many convents and then regularly visited them.

St. Teresa travelled around Spain & Portugal in a curtained “carriage” (an unsprung cart) drawn by mules. The roads, such as they were, would have been rough, stony and often steep and she had to negotiate mountains, arid plateaus and rivers. She and her companions were once nearly drowned when they were being ferried across a river in a boat. The boat they were in (with their “carriages”) had no oars and it broke loose from the ferry-rope and drifted down stream. "We began to pray and the boatmen to shout" wrote St. Teresa about the event. They were saved when the boat got stuck on a sand-bank.

There is also a story (possibly apocryphal, but it expresses St. Teresa’s intimate relationship with God) that St. Teresa’s carriage was once overturned and she was thrown out onto a muddy road causing her to protest “Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have many!”

As the supporters of SURVIVE-MIVA are only too aware, there are many parts of the world today where people have to negotiate terrain equally as demanding as St. Teresa traversed. The following information received in July 2013 from Sr. Binu Jose, a member of the Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod, illustrates this very well. Sr. Binu is based at Pushpanjali Mission Centre, Maharashtra State, India where the Sisters run health and social development activities with people in the area who are poor and marginalised. The people the Sisters support live in remote villages with the nearest primary Health Centre being 8-30 km away. Anyone needing the services of the Health Centre has to travel on foot or in bullock carts because there are no other transport facilities. In  Sr. Binu’s own words: ‘most of the poor are living in the remote areas … Due to famine and other related factors, there are many malnutrition deaths … almost all live in one-room hutments [sic] made of mud, sticks and leaves. …Unavailability of proper transportation & communication facilities add to their segregation, many of the interior and forest regions have only stony & rough pathways. Educationally, about 60% of the population is illiterate, which makes them suffer the various forms of oppression and injustices in a silent manner, because of poverty children have to work to support their families. Health & medical facilities are poor in these interior villages. Rarely does one see doctors & nurses attending to the patients. There are also HIV/AIDS patients in most of our target villages.

The Sisters of the Cross have a small dispensary to cater for the health needs of people living in villages in a radius of 30km and, when they approached SURVIVE-MIVA for a transport grant, they had just 3 motorcycles available to carry out their work. The Sisters requested a grant to enable them to purchase a van to use as a mobile clinic, as they aimed to visit 24 villages fortnightly to provide medical care and health education and set-up self-help groups.  Sr. Binu stated that the van they had chosen ‘is suitable for our rough roads …gives the average of 25km per one litre of diesel. Its maintenance cost is minimal too. …the back door can be opened upwards & can give shade & protection in emergency situations’.

A grant of £6,500 enabled the Sisters to buy the van (pictured) and about a month after their purchase Sr. Binu wrote to us again with an update: ‘We are really very grateful to you and happy that there is so much difference in our work from the time the van has entered our Centre. We are able to save a lot of time and we are able to do the work much faster. It is a blessing for us and the people we serve. Already we were able to save 2 lives (mother and child) at the time of pregnancy, since the van was helpful to reach the nearest hospital, which was not possible earlier. Going to these interior villages late at night was only a dream for us, till the van came, but now we can be at the service of the people day and night. It is a real blessing that we received from God, through you and your team. Just yesterday we held a medical camp in one of the interior villages, since we could take the doctors with our van, very many of them benefitted from this small act of ours … Once again wishing you and your team God’s abundant graces and blessings always and every day.

The feeling remains that God is on the journey too’ St. Teresa of Avila.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Flying Priest, St Christopher and Other Traveller’s Tales

At the end of July I attended an international MIVA meeting in Stadl Paura, Austria hosted by MIVA Austria. Attending the meeting, besides myself, were representatives from all the European MIVAs: Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Croatia.

It was a German Priest, Fr. Paul Schulte O.M.I. (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) who founded ‘Missionalium Vehiculorum Associatio’ in 1927 following the death of his childhood friend, Father Otto Fuhrmann, in Africa. Fr. Fuhrmann had pneumonia, complicated by malaria, and it had taken him five days to reach a hospital, where he died. Fr. Schulte was known as the ‘Flying Priest’ because he was a pilot who brought medical aid and supplies to remote Oblate missions, particularly north of the Arctic Circle.

The various branches of MIVA were spawned from Fr. Schulte’s initiative, except, that is, SURVIVE-MIVA. We were founded quite independently, possibly with our founders being unaware that any other organisations linked to the Church were funding transport. Our original name was ‘SURVIVE International Mobile Medical Aid’ and it was not until 1980, when we were invited to join MIVA, that we became known as SURVIVE-MIVA.
MIVA Austria has one main fundraiser each year, on the Sunday nearest to St. Christopher’s (the Patron Saint of travellers) Feast Day, 25th July. We celebrated ‘Christophorus Sunday’ at MIVA Austria whilst I was there (Sunday 27th July) and children brought their bicycles and other modes of transport to be blessed (see photograph opposite). SURVIVE-MIVA differs from the other MIVAs in that our Patron Saint is not St. Christopher but St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who is Patron of the Missions.

Of course each MIVA has grown and developed in different ways depending on factors such as national culture, local church structure, historical links with countries overseas etc. It was interesting to compare and contrast, discuss and reflect on our ways of working.  Some MIVAs supply means of communication (radio masts, internet connections, computers) as well as a means of transport but we all have the same mission – to improve the lives of vulnerable people living in remote communities by giving them ACCESS to healthcare and other forms of support.

Theresa Codd

Friday, 23 May 2014

Each Part Does Its Work

Last weekend one of our relatively new volunteer speakers, Joan, was making an appeal for SURVIVE-MIVA in my own Parish. I couldn’t do the appeal myself because I had other commitments for one of the two Sunday Masses, and anyway, the parishioners have heard me speak before, and many knew me as a child and, as the saying goes, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’! So, I decided it would be better not to attend the second Sunday Mass that I was free for but go to one of the neighbouring parishes. Checking the Mass times in the Diocesan Directory I was reminded of how blessed I was with the choice of Mass times as there were several churches that were in very easy travelling distance for me (a car owner!).

I thought again of places I had visited where people are not so fortunate. I remember some years ago, before I worked for SURVIVE-MIVA, I stayed in a village in a mountainous area of the Philippines where the priest was able to visit only once a year. On his annual stop-over he would celebrate Mass, baptise all the babies born in the past year, marry engaged couples etc.

Also, when I lived in Zimbabwe, working as a science teacher in a rural school, I would walk about 4 miles once a month on a Saturday to attend Mass in an outstation (a small hut) – often to find that the priest did not turn up! No doubt the contact person at the outstation had been informed that the monthly Mass was not possible that weekend but I wasn’t in the ‘communication loop’ so would make the journey blissfully unaware.

Recently a report was received at SURVIVE-MIVA from Fr. David Okullu, with accompanying photographs, highlighting the improvements in pastoral care that have been achieved in Palabek Parish, Archdiocese of Gulu, Uganda thanks to the availability of suitable transport - a motorcycle funded by SURVIVE-MIVA (for £3,750). Before the motorcycle was purchased the priests travelled around the Parish on bicycles, which, was extremely tiring and not very time-efficient.

The two priests based in Palabek Parish, Fr. David and Fr. Joseph, are responsible for the pastoral care of people living in 30 villages/outstations. Many of the people in the area are deeply traumatised following the 22 year war in northern Uganda between government forces and the Lord’s Resistance Army. The priests therefore offer the people counselling and spiritual direction, as well as administering the Sacraments. On top of this, Fr. David acts as Chaplain to the youth in the Parish (including pupils in 5 schools) and to staff at a Health Centre. In recent times there has also been an influx of refugees from South Sudan due to the conflict there, so the mobility the motorcycle has provided is also enabling the priests to reach out to these suffering people.

With the motorcycle in action Fr. David reported that the frequency of pastoral visits to the people, including the youth groups, has increased and ‘we can now see and feel our parish is alive through the various pastoral activities with the easy coordination of the programs.’ 

It is uplifting here in the SURVIVE-MIVA office to see the generosity of our volunteers and supporters (such as Joan, our volunteer speaker, and the parishioners in my own parish) transformed into a means of transport for parishes such as Palabek Parish.

‘From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.’  Ephesians 4:16

Assistant Director (Development), SURVIVE-MIVA

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A New Commandment

It is Maundy Thursday when we reflect on Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, commanding his followers  to "love one another as I have loved you", and giving us the gift of the Eucharist. St. Augustine said of the Eucharist that “we become what we receive” we receive the Body of Christ to be the body of Christ for the world.

The lay Catechists at St. Wilbrod’s Parish, Nagongera, Uganda are not only being the body of Christ, in their own locality, they also enable others to receive the Body of Christ.

St. Wilbrod’s Parish is made-up of 30 out-stations that are spread out over a wide geographical area. It is not possible for the Parish Priest, Fr. Pius Okech, to care for all his parishioners (who are mainly subsistence farmers) effectively on his own. He therefore shares his ministry with 50 lay Catechists who provide pastoral care and organise Eucharistic services in the out-stations. The work of the Catechists has been facilitated by a SURVIVE-MIVA grant of £1,900 (the price includes carriage and freight plus assembly), which funded 30 bicycles for the Catechists to use (one bicycle for each out-station).

The bicycles are delivered.

The Catechists prepare to road test the new bicycles

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Right Tools for the Job

The role of Assistant Director is a varied one, perhaps more varied than you, dear reader, may imagine. In the last week I have carried out the tasks essential for managing the appeals process (church appeals being one of the main sources of income for the Association), been on hand to assist the auditor (who spent two days in the office carrying out the annual audit), had a meeting with the Chair of Trustees, been to the local £1 shop to buy cleaning products and replaced the vacuum bag! The last two tasks were in preparation for the office spring-cleaning, and, this morning, I have had a chat with the office cleaner, Michael, to ensure that he has all the tools he needs to get the job done.

In many parts of the world, a means of transport is an essential tool to allow the Church’s healthcare and pastoral support work to be effective.  For example, in Chililabombwe, Zambia, which borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Assisi are engaged in essential humanitarian work. Sister Superior Josephine Mulenga wrote to SURVIVE-MIVA to give details of their activities and to explain how a vehicle would enable them to do their work more effectively:  Because of the political instability in the DRC, many refugees, street children and the homeless come to our town, and this adds to our work. We deal with the problems of prostitution, child trafficking, widows, single mothers, teenage pregnancy, non-school-going children, and the many cases of HIV. We are only ten miles from the border, and currently we look after more than 400 widows from the fighting, and we feed more than 300 children who are chronically malnourished when they reach us. We aim to take integrated health outreach work to the outlying communities, and a vehicle, which would enable us to do this, would fulfil the role of emergency ambulance as well as to transport the produce from our small scale farm work into the market.”

Thanks to the generosity of SURVIVE-MIVA’s supporters we were able to provide the Sisters with a grant of £27,900 to purchase a Toyota Hilux. Sr. Josephine wrote to us again once the vehicle was in action to say: “On behalf of our community, nutritionist, 500 widows, 150 HIV and AIDS patients on ARVs [antiretroviral drugs], 400 orphans, 100 undernourished children, and on my own behalf, I am traditionally on my knees thanking God for the gift you are to us. This vehicle will go a long way in helping the poor and all those who need our services. Please pray for us as we will do the same for you.”

It strikes me on reading Sister Josephine’s words that another essential tool, for all missionary activity, is prayer. So, next time I am on my knees changing the vacuum bag, I must remember to pray for all those involved in working for the welfare of others (especially those who are feeling overwhelmed (clogged up) and short of energy (suction power)), and ask the good God, that they may be given the tools they need to carry out their work.
Theresa Codd
Assistant Director (Development), SURVIVE-MIVA