What a pleasure it was to visit St Joseph’s Church Basingstoke on Sunday to thank Ginny O’Kelly for over twenty-five years of volunteering for CAFOD and to present her with a papal blessing in recognition of her support and dedication. Ginny has been parishioner at St Joseph’s for over fifty years and in that time she has organised CAFOD hunger and soup lunches and spoken at Lent and Harvest fast days helping to raise over £1 million in the last 25 years. Through her work at Bishop Challoner secondary school she has encouraged students to become CAFOD supporters and participate in CAFOD campaigns .
Thank you so much Ginny for all you have done for CAFOD, for putting your faith into action and caring for you brothers and sisters living in poverty overseas.
Ginny told me about her experience of volunteering .
“I became involved with CAFOD around the time of Pope John Paul’s visit. The first thing I helped out at was a rich man poor man supper at church, I did the cooking.
During the 90’s I began helping to run soup and bread Hunger Lunches for the fast days and went to as many of CAFOD’s information days as possible to learn as much as I could. I became active in promoting CAFOD at Bishop Challoner School and started teaching classes about CAFOD. This was the time of The Bosnian war and my awareness of the plight of refugees began.
CAFOD began running public speaking training, which I attended and have spoken at Masses ever since; highlighting CAFOD’s work and campaigns and thanking supporters. Over the years I’ve met a lot of interesting people, heard some fantastic speakers and learned a lot about what’s going on all over the world.
I have also done some very odd things such as giving out leaflets to shoppers in our town centre whilst standing next to a giant fish and slice of bread, all in the name of highlighting that the world has enough food for everyone yet some still go hungry. I once took a party of young people to our local Argos where we were welcomed with smiles and treated like royalty, only for me to hand them over a petition saying that their company was selling gold products that were being mined in such a way as to harm whole communities in the developing world. The press were there to record the event.
CAFOD work has involved me in doing a lot of cutting out too. I’ve cut out 750 hands for youngsters to write messages to the Prime Minister for a campaign, 800 droplets of water for people to write messages on before being sent to the G8 Summit to ask them to tackle water poverty, 700 – 800 hearts for youngsters to write things they fear are being threatened by climate change, and many more cutting and sticking activities. I truly believe that enthusing the young is a good way to ensure that governments listen to CAFOD messages.
It’s not all been good, I have been heckled after speaking at mass and told by a few parishioners, quite vociferously, that things never change and people are sick of hearing about and helping the poor. This knocked my confidence and stopped me wanting to talk in public, but not for long. I’m committed to changing things for the poor and so thankful to be in a really generous parish.”