Seeking to make a difference with CAFOD

By Simon Hart

Colette Byrne is reflecting on her new job with CAFOD. She has only been with the Catholic aid agency for a couple of months but already she senses it is a place where she can make a difference.

"Growing up in a Catholic family I was brought up going to church and always heard of CAFOD through school," she explains. "I started working in the charity sector but was looking for a change from fundraising. I wanted to do something where I was making a difference to people's lives. In my previous job at Marie Curie we gave dignity in death and I thought I wanted to start offering people dignity in life – everybody should have the right to basic resources and basic means of living and that is not the case across the world. It is nice to work for a charity where you really feel you are making a difference to people who really need it to survive."

In her post as community participation coordinator, the 31-year-old has the responsibility of finding and managing volunteers both in Liverpool and North Wales, although this is not the only aspect of her work. Last month, for instance, she helped to organise the charity's carol concert and its Christmas fun run. The month before, she made the trip down to London to participate in the march against climate change.

"I spend two and a half days a week in Liverpool and two and a half days a week in Wrexham," she says of her normal routine. "The role is volunteer management and recruitment and will entail recruiting volunteers to represent CAFOD in their parish and schools in order to educate people about our work and encourage more people to support and possibly volunteer."

Colette worked previously for Marie Curie in Woolton following her graduation from Sheffield Hallam University with a degree in Communication Studies in 2006. Her position was community fundraiser and, as she adds, "relationships and communication skills that I learned and developed there have led me to be able to do this role for CAFOD now".

What has impressed her most about CAFOD is the impressive dedication of its volunteers. By way of example, she says: "I've got volunteers who are members of a Justice and Peace group and they spend a lot of time focusing on Laudato Si' and how they can spread the word and encourage other parishes to get involved and look at themselves and how they live their lives. The fact they take the time to go out of their way and discuss this and think of how they can encourage others to get involved really shows passion and commitment."

A former pupil of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic College in Widnes, she grew up in St Basil's parish where her mother Margaret was secretary for 20 years. Today she lives in south Liverpool where she spends her free time singing in the Liverpool Rock Choir and dancing with Mersey Swing. "I do swing dancing," she laughs. "I do Lindy Hop and Charleston. I was a complete beginner – I had two left feet and couldn't dance at all." She has found her feet on the dance floor now – and is fast doing the same at CAFOD.

• To become a CAFOD volunteer, contact Colette via email cbyrne@cafod.org.uk or telephone 0151 228 4028.