Phoenix Group goes fishing

When Margaret Hodgson was invited to visit Holy Family Phoenix Group she thought she might do things a little bit differently…

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Margaret, Jean, from the Phoenix Group, and Bob the Fish.

The Phoenix Group was formed to give women in Holy Family, Hartlepool, a chance to meet up for a talk from an invited speaker. Last week, they asked our Schools’ Volunteer Coordinator, Margaret Hodgson, to tell them a little bit about CAFOD. Margaret is currently busy touring primary schools around the diocese introducing Bob the Fish and explaining how he has helped feed families in Zambia. So when the invite came she knew exactly what she wanted to do: armed with inflatable fish and her trusty pick-up stick she invited the Phoenix Group to go fishing. The thought of being parted from their cup of tea and dragged down to a windswept river bank caused momentary panic, but Margaret was quickly able to explain that what she was suggesting was only a game, though one with a serious purpose.


When her husband died in a mining accident, Florence had no money with which to feed her children. She was helped by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, supported by CAFOD, to learn how to farm fish. Now Florence has found a way to provide for her family and has encouraged other people in her community to do the same.


So, back to the game. Margaret invited her audience to grab one of her inflatable fish out of an imaginary pond using the pick-up stick with each fish representing a positive outcome for Florence and her community:

  • As well as eating the fish, families can sell the fish to buy other things they need.
  • The money which people like Florence get from selling the fish at market can be used by them to pay for their children to have an education.
  • Florence and her friends have been able to set up a savings club with the money left over from selling the fish. Sometimes they give money to help others.
  • When the ponds are drained there is lots mud which is full of good stuff from the fish droppings. This can be spread on the fields to help crops grow.

It’s another example of how the generosity of the Catholic community of England and Wales, allied to the hard work of CAFOD’s partners and the people they serve, can really make a difference to people’s lives. The Phoenix Group were certainly impressed and it will be a long time before they forget their fishing trip!

If you would like to support projects like the one that helped Florence, please visit our webpage.

Young People boost Harvest Fast Day

Jeremy Cain, Hexham and Newcastle Diocese Community Participation Coordinator, reports on how young people are helping CAFOD spread their message in parishes.


Meisha at the Youth Council

Meisha likes to get involved. Not only is she a member of our diocesan Youth Council, she has also signed up to take part in the John Paul II Award programme. This provides young people with an opportunity to gain recognition for the work they do in service of their church community, in a similar way to the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

As part of the programme, she offered to promote our Harvest Fast Day Appeal by sharing the story of Nicanora from Bolivia with her Sunday Mass congregation. Nicanora lives on the Altiplano, an extremely inhospitable part of Bolivia where poverty is widespread. She tells us,  “On a normal day when we don’t have much food, we eat barley soup. We grind the barley and mix it with water. When we eat just this soup all day, we get tired very quickly. Sometimes I buy some vegetables and make them last as long as I can. But if there’s no money, and I can’t buy vegetables, we’ll just go without.”


Nicanora shows off her crops

The good news is that with your support CAFOD is working with its partners to help her and others like her to grow more and more varied food. By training them in new as well as traditional farming methods, and providing them with the equipment they need, not only can they now feed their families but they’re even able to sell a little of what’s left in the local market, so earning a valuable income.

It’s great that young people in Hexham and Newcastle are willing to offer their time to reach out to their sisters and brothers overseas and we’d like to say a big thank you to Meisha for her efforts. If you’d like to help us too, please get in touch at