“Building bridges” in Chandler’s Ford!

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Last Sunday, the parish of St Edward’s the Confessor in Chandler’s Ford had the honour to host two extra-special guests: Julia and Sandra from the community of Puentecitos in El Salvador, which the parish has been supporting for over 3 years through CAFOD’s Connect2: initiative. 

“Puntecitos” means “little bridges” – an appropriate name indeed, as big bridges of solidarity were definitely built on Sunday! Julia and Sandra are currently travelling throughout the UK for 2 weeks, visiting the parishes and schools that have been supporting their community and our partner JDS (Jesuit Development Service) in El Salvador. With them also came Erasmo (who is also featured in the Connect2 materials) and Fidel, Julia’s husband, though sadly they could not be with us on Sunday as they were visiting another parish in the North!

The CAFOD group at St Edward’s couldn’t have given them a warmer welcome. After the morning Mass, where Julia and Sandra introduced themselves, the CAFOD group had organised a buffet lunch with about 25 parishioners attending, all CAFOD supporters, including Fr Michael Dennehy and Deacon Paul. It was a lovely occasion – the food was delicious and the parish hall beautifully set up.

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During the lunch, Julia and Sandra gave an eye-opening presentation about Puentecitos and about the activities they are involved with through JDS. You can download their presentation and see some photos here.

Julia and her husband Fidel have six children. Through their success raising pigs and chickens they have been able to afford the mortgage on a new home. Julia is part of a women’s cooperative that runs a catering business. She is also active in the church and a member of the choir.

Sandra lives with her mother and brothers and sisters. She also belongs to one of the women’s cooperative groups supported by CAFOD, where they make and sell soap and shopping baskets.

It was fantastic to hear from them first-hand the difference the solidarity from parishes in England and Wales has made to their community. St Edward the Confessor has been involved with Connect2 since the very beginning and has so far raised an amazing total of nearly £19.000 towards El Salvador – an incredible amount!

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In their presentation, it was very touching to hear Julia and Sandra say: “You are like stars. Although far away you always seem so close. Knowing that people so far away are thinking of us and our community gives us energy and strength to keep working in our groups, united in our daily lives.”

At the end, Clare Lasker, on behalf of the CAFOD group, presented them with special gifts for their community and thanked them for sharing their experiences.

It was indeed a very special occasion and our huge thanks go to Clare and the CAFOD group for all their hard work in preparing the visit, to Cecily Exworthy for kindly hosting our guests on Saturday night, to Fr Michael and all parishioners for their unfailing support.

A special thanks also to our colleague Sarah Smith-Pearse from the Latin America team, who is accompanying Julia and Sandra throughout their trip and doing all the hard interpreting work!

Thanks again everyone and wishing Julia and Sandra a happy stay in the UK!

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