Two students, Matthew and Phil, from Carmel College, St Helens recently visited the houses of Parliament with CAFOD. Here is an account of their day in their own words…..
“In late March, myself and another member of my college’s student council were given the opportunity to attend a CAFOD youth event for two days, which for me was incredibly exciting because I would like to go into international development and work for NGOs and charities such as CAFOD.
The first day was based in the CAFOD HQ in London, and started with some quick icebreakers to meet the fellow 33 students attending the event, followed by a tour of the building and it was insightful to see the wide variety of jobs that needed to be done there, for example apart from those involved in maintaining and operating CAFOD’s humanitarian missions, there was an IT department, educational outreach department and theological department, which certainly looked very intriguing.
Following this, we had three workshops. The first was all about how to effectively campaign and lobby MPs – this was in part a preparation for the next day where we did actually get to meet some MPs. I took from this that actually contacting MPs, our link to parliament, can bring about real changes and so I have signed up to become a CAFOD MP correspondent.
After this we had a workshop where we learnt all about how government works using a rather controversial (though fortunately hypothetical) example. We were split into groups that represented the different parts of government, my group was given the role as the Secretary of State for International Development and were tasked with trying to convince the rest of the groups into abolishing the 0.7% aid budget, which was difficult for me as I am very much for the aid budget, however it was interesting and useful to get to consider views opposite to mine. This workshop became rather heated as the rest of the groups didn’t agree with my groups opinion and to be honest it was nice to see a majority of people passionate for keeping the aid budget.
The final workshop was all about using social media effectively and we learnt the impact that things like twitter, facebook and press releases can have, and we drafted potential press releases to be sent to our local newspapers. This taught the importance of ‘getting the message across’ which is so vital for charities in order to have a supply of donation so that they can continue to be the voice of the voiceless.
The next day was rather exciting as this all took place in parliament. Firstly, we had a Q&A session with the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, and he started by thanking us and emphasising the need for young people to be getting involved in things like charities or politics.
Next was a tour of the Houses of Parliament and then some of us, myself included, were lucky enough to get tickets to get to sit in on Prime Ministers Questions in the House of Commons. I had seen debates at the House of Commons before, but nothing really prepared me for the actual thing, seeing politicians partaking in the rather unique way of doing business was quite enlightening and I can now say I have been in the same room as David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, among others.
Finally was the chance to get to meet some MPs, in which questions relating to both international development and politics in general were asked.
I asked an MP if he though Britain had done enough, or if Britain should have done anything differently in terms of meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and he replied that he thought Britain was a leading figure in international development as we are one of few nations that actually upholds our commitment to dedicating 0.7% of our GDP to international aid. However he said he thought conflict was often missed out of the equation and told from his own experience the harrowing effects of conflict on a country. Later I asked another MP if she thought Britain had a duty to take more of a role in preventing and dealing with serious conflict abroad, such as the recent fights between Christians and Muslims in the CAR and she replied she thinks maybe more of our aid budget and also our military expertise should be directed to African Union and UN peacekeeping forces, who have come a long way.
I can honestly say my time at CAFOD was one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve had, and it just confirmed, if not strengthened, my ambition of going into international development and working for NGOs and charities and perhaps in the future I may get to work for CAFOD. I’m very grateful to the CAFOD youth team for organising the event and also my college chaplain for suggesting it to me and I’d recommend it to anybody, regardless of whether they are interested in foreign aid or not”
“Over the dates 25-26th, CAFOD hosted a parliamentary trip to London, to lobby our MP’s against climate change in developing countries. I found the experience quite enjoyable as I was able to talk to my MP, George Howarth (pictured above in the middle), and get his views on the current issue of climate change in developing countries. The previous day was full of workshops, where we learnt how to write press releases, role-play various roles in parliament, and the overall cause that CAFOD is fighting for. I can’t express how helpful it was to both my colleague, Matt, and I in learning how to establish a career in politics or in international development”.
Thanks to both Philip and Matthew for their engaging and inspirational accounts.