Hello to all the pupils and staff at St Swithun’s Catholic Primary, Portsmouth who will be ‘Brightening Up’ for Harvest Fast Day tomorrow! Thank you so much everyone!
On Monday, our Education Volunteers, Patrick and Isobel were invited to give a special ‘Brighten Up’ Harvest assembly at the school and so they wore their very brightest clothes! They were then greeted with a welcoming, “You could have warned us to wear our sun-glasses! Where did you get that shirt?”
Patrick told us,
“The children entered the assembly, bringing their class candles with them, to the beautiful accompaniment of Handel’s Water Music. This was specially chosen for Harvest because of the crucial part water has to play in producing a good harvest and because it reminds us of the challenges some communities face in collecting enough water to sustain life and to irrigate their land.
“We lit our candles alongside the class candles to offer all our prayers in thanks to God for the success of the harvest. Headteacher Mr Andrew Olive introduced us and it was evident that we are now becoming part of the St Swithun’s family. We were very impressed that so many of the children remembered what CAFOD stands for and the work we do.
“We were equally impressed that the children could tell us the Corporal Works of Mercy in response to our review of The Jubilee Year of Mercy and Pope Francis’ call for us to make a very special effort to observe the Corporal Works of Mercy this year. We told them that we would be focusing upon ‘Feed the Hungry’ during our assembly.”
Patrick and Isobel started their assembly by talking about the variety of produce we eat and sometimes grow at home.
“Many of the children said that they grow some vegetables at home. We also asked the children to think of things that are needed to help crops grow well, such as sunshine and rain 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 (pictured above) 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. This is a job for Wonder Worm as Patrick and Isobel went on to explain.
CAFOD’s partner is working with local people to help them create wormeries. These are big holes in the ground which people dig, build a wall inside and fill with cow manure. Communities are given worms by CAFOD’s partner which they then add to the hole, keep damp and cover to protect the worms from the 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 says, “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 they 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.
Not only does the family now grow enough food for themselves, they also 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.
Patrick and Isobel also brought along some worm-rich compost and a selection of fresh produce, similar to that which is grown on the Altiplano, to show the children.
“The children were really interested in the great works of Wonder Worm and his pals and showed great interest in our rich soil too (although our worms were taking their ‘siesta’ as it was quite late in the day and quite bright in the hall!)
“We were really blessed that day as one of the children we spoke to was actually from Bolivia which was lovely! Her face beamed with pride when she told us.
“At the end of the assembly, Mr Olive invited the children to help CAFOD ‘Brighten Up’ the lives of children like Santos and Joel this Harvest Fast Day by wearing bright clothes this Friday.
“In addition to supporting CAFOD this Harvest, the school will also be supporting the local Food Bank which is a long-standing arrangement and an integral part of the school’s support for the local community.
“We then thanked the children for being so attentive and for their excellent answers and we asked for their prayers for CAFOD and all the communities we work with around the world.”
Thank you so much Patrick and Isobel for sharing this with us and thank you too to everyone at St Swithun’s Primary for all your enthusiasm and support! Thank you!
Find out more about our work in Bolivia and Ruben’s story by watching this short film below.