Our wonderful Education Volunteers, Isobel and Patrick, returned to St Paul’s Catholic Primary, in Paulsgrove last week for a very special ‘Brighten Up’ assembly!
Patrick told us;
“With trug overflowing, compost maturing and bright shirt dazzling we set up in the assembly hall as the school’s chosen harvest hymn was playing in the background. The children filed in and many of them gave us a welcoming, yet discreet, wave of recognition and welcome.
“Having been introduced and welcomed by Mrs Were, we lit our candles as we offered our assembly in prayer to God, our loving Father. We reminded the children that we are still in the Jubilee Year of Mercy and that Pope Francis has invited us to perform our Works of Mercy. We said that this morning we would be thinking about ‘feeding the hungry’ and finding out how CAFOD helps families all over the world to grow enough food to feed themselves.”
Patrick and Isobel started the assembly by explaining that they were going to ask the children to think about how food is grown. They asked everyone to put up their hands if they had ever grown anything to eat.
They then asked the pupils whether they could think of things that are needed to help crops grow well, such as sunshine, rain, and good soil as well as things that might hinder growth such as drought or flooding.
One of the things needed for growing food is good soil so Patrick and Isobel then showed the children how CAFOD has helped a family living in Bolivia to have much better soil for growing their vegetables.
Santos and Joel live in a small farm high up in the Andes mountains in an area called the Altiplano. Getting water is difficult and rain is unpredictable. There are a lot of hailstorms and frost which can wipe out people’s crops. The soil is generally very dry and of poor quality. In fact it’s a job for Wonder Worm!!
CAFOD’s partner is working with local people to help them create wormeries. Wormeries are big holes in the ground which the people dig, build a wall inside and fill with cow manure. They then add worms to the hole, keep damp and cover to protect the worms from the very hot sun. Here is Elizabeth, Santos and Joel’s mother, beside their wormery (below).
After about three months, Wonder Worm and his friends have done their job, and created wonderfully rich humus (the worms eat the cow manure and the humus is what comes out afterwards). The humus is worked into the fields as a fertiliser and then sown on the family’s fields.
Modesto, Joel and Santos’ father said, “We realised very quickly how good it was. We used the humus on our potatoes and the next year they were very much taller than would have been previously.”
As Patrick and Isobel explained, both boys help their parents with the work. Santos helps with the replanting, watering the plants and weeding. Joel (pictured above) helps with weeding but his Dad says sometimes “he pulls up the wrong plants.” Modesto says life will be much easier for his sons than it has been for him, as it will be easier to grow enough food. He also says that eating the vegetables means they are both healthy and growing properly.
Patrick and Isobel had brought in their own worms to show the children!
“We had a container of compost with worms but, the worms were still asleep and keeping out of the bright light of the assembly hall so we could not see them.”
“The children were surprised that Joel was allowed to wield the heavy hoe to do his bit of work to support the family.”
Today, as Patrick and Isobel explained, not only does the family grow enough food for themselves but they now have some extra crops such as onions, chard, potatoes and beans which are taken into the nearest town to sell at market. Modesto also sells some of the worm humus, because people can see how good it is.
At the end of the assembly, Patrick and Isobel asked the children to pray for the work of CAFOD and our partners as they support communities worldwide. They also suggested some ways in which the children could help ‘Brighten Up’ for Santos, Joel and communities just like theirs across the world this forthcoming Harvest Fast Day on 7 October.
Thank you so much for giving this assembly and for sending us these lovely photos Isobel and Patrick! And thank you to all the pupils at St Paul’s Catholic Primary for all your support and prayers!
Find out more about our work in Bolivia and Ruben’s story by watching this short film below.