“The best experience so far has been helping to pack 30,000 meals for Burkina Faso for the Helping Hands Relief Agency. Hundreds of delegates side by side weighing and measuring, packing and sealing, chatting and laughing, but bottom line, feeding hungry bodies and hopefully making the difference between life and starvation.”
Throughout this Pastoral-Theological Congress, the Catholic Relief Services agency in conjunction with Stop Hunger Now have offered opportunities to participants to pack meals – food aid – for people in Burkino Fasa through the Helping Hands project.
The English and Welsh delegation volunteered to take part on Wednesday lunchtime. We were taken through to an area of the exhibit hall reserved for this activity, where we sat to listen to Joseph describe why this work was so important. A Ghanaian, Joseph told us that he had been born into a time of upheaval, losing both his parents from a very young age. He knew hunger personally. He remembered how hard it was to sleep at night as a child because the pain of hunger was so sharp. Joseph does not even know how old he is, because there is no one left to tell him.
But he was helped by Catholic Relief Services who came to his village, built a school and gave the children who attended school a meal at the end of the school day. He hated school but he loved the meal. That education and that food gave Joseph what he needed to survive and grow into an engaging and articulate activist, who now returns the favour, working for Catholic Relief Services himself. His four children do not know hunger, and for him that is the real success.
So then we went over to the work tables in groups of five. Some packed food into bags, others weighed or sealed the bags. Other teams packed them read for despatch. Our goal was 30,000 meals over the lunch hour. We just about made it!
“Wow. How much did we enjoy being useful? How grounding was it to move from being confused by a vast menu for lunch to packing these basic and simple meals. Thank God for all those who work in this area and who gave us this opportunity.” Christine & Michael Evans
“On Wednesday lunchtime we met at the back of the exhibition hall in the hygienic Helping Hands area for a little piece work. Wearing our attractive protective hats we listened to a young man from Ghana whose life was saved by a little food. Each day to get the food he had to attend school. He hated school but loved that food. He was there to show us what a difference a little food can make in the life of a person. Now his own 4 children never go hungry (and they all go to school). In the hour or so we were there 30,000 bags, each containing enough rice and soy food for a meal for 6 people, were packed. I wondered about the family that would rip open the bag I was sealing. Here we were, a small group from England and Wales, in The United States, working in a production line alongside people from many of the 100 countries attending the World Meeting Of Families, packing food that a family somewhere in the world would break open and eat one day. We didn’t need the music to feel good but it helped express the jollity of the occasion. The massive Gong that rang out every time we reached another 3,000 packs raised a cheer and we redoubled our efforts to get out in time for the next keynote speaker. It was good to be actively engaged in a week that otherwise seemed spent wandering around wondering where I should be (and how to get there)!” Breda Theakston
“One of the highlights of our time here was taking part in the ‘helping hands’ initiative where we packed dried food meals which in turn will be sent out to Burkina Faso by Catholic Relief Service. We also heard from a man from Ghana who explained how he had been helped by such meals. He rebuked the claim that he was the poster boy for Catholic Relief service – that honour is reserved for is his children because they have never known hunger- something he thanked us all for! So humbling. As you will see – we all took part – Bishop Peter standing alongside us all and enjoying the experience also – though none of us look the best in our hats!” Joanne White