CAFOD’s Walk for Water challenge has encouraged lots of people to take it up to help end water poverty. 

Damian Porter, CAFOD parish volunteer at Our Lady and St Anne, Caversham, was one of them and he shares his story:

"About six weeks ago I took a phone call from my good friend Bill, who asked for my help in extending the profile and activities of CAFOD in our local area of Caversham.  Of course, I had the all the usual concerns about how to fit this into an already crowded schedule of family life, being overstretched at work, and, admittedly, a little general weariness after months of lockdown and little social interaction. 

"However, after talking to our super enthusiastic local CAFOD coordinator Debbie and attending the Lent volunteer meeting on zoom, I was inspired and resolved to do something.  It was here that the very real efforts that CAFOD was making became clear.  I heard about and saw the tangible differences that were being made to improve the lives of communities experiencing a lockdown in conditions that were so much more extreme than ours.

"So what did I do?  I mentioned about the idea of a sponsored walk to our parish priest Monsignor Patrick Daley who said 'This is a sparkling start to our Lenten Journey!' 

"I then ‘sounded it out’ to a few families outside Mass (fortunately our weekend Masses were still continuing).  The positive responses I received (thanks so much Mees and Ransleys!) propelled me into action.  I took the ‘old fashioned’ route of phone calls to friends, some of whom we had not seen from months and who perhaps had drifted away from church life.  It was lovely to catch up with them and rewarding for everybody I think.

"How did I publicise the event?  I set up a JustGiving page which didn’t take long.  I also took a more personal route, and emailed friends and family.  This was highly effective.  Sharing on social media came on the day itself and I think was more effective as it had the photos, the faces and the muddy boots.  I also created a QR code from the JustGiving link and my wife made little posters attached to our rucksacks for passers-by to scan. 

"We felt a little shy at first, but interestingly once out in the open countryside, people were friendly and genuinely interested.  We had several ask about what we were doing, and we were able to explain CAFOD’s work and get lots of impromptu donations.  These were generally quite small, but somehow the kindness of strangers can be so meaningful. 

"This may not be for everybody, but I also actually lugged a bucket of water for the 13km also, just to add that endurance element.  Above all it was a great talking point - 'What is that nutter up to with the bucket doing miles from anywhere??' you could see people wondering.  The QR code on the bucket served as an excellent answer!

"It was a heart-warming experience for many and reconnected us as a community, despite all the restrictions.  It felt so wonderful to be doing something positive.  We will be going bigger and better next year!"

Some comments from walkers:

Joey, aged seven, exclaimed: "I really enjoyed it and think it was a really important thing to do!"

Amelia, aged 14, noted: "I feel we have some responsibility to help those less fortunate and this was such a fun way to do it."

Imogen, aged 11, said: "It was great to help people and do something active."

Evie, aged 13, commented:  "It was a lovely feeling of community spirit helping people far away but still part of our world community."

Rosamund Porter ended with: "I like CAFOD as they share my ethos of caring for people in need across the world and it was great to be part of this nationwide CAFOD event."

The JustGiving page has raised more than £2,000, well above the £500 target. The generosity of people is wonderful and for such a good cause. Thank you so much to Damian, all those who participated in the walk and to those who donated to help end water poverty.  What an inspiration you all are!