25 September 2020

A year at CAFOD

Written by Ellen Martin, CAFOD (2019-20)

“After a rather atypical year (a general election, leaving the EU, a global pandemic), my internship at CAFOD is certainly a year I will not forget!

Irrespective of the year’s events, however, the day to day work and opportunities I experienced at CAFOD were themselves wonderful.  

My role as a Parliamentary Assistant saw me meet and build relationships with MPs, craft parliamentary questions for them to ask in the chamber and select committee scrutiny sessions, research and prepare briefings on important issues (such as safeguarding the international aid budget), and even organising and managing my own All Parliamentary Group of MPs (something I didn’t even know existed before my time here!).

One of the things I valued most about my internship was that I was given the freedom to work with other departments in CAFOD too, to develop my own specific interests. 

Coming from a legal background, I found the policy team’s work particularly interesting. I spent time researching human right abuses in global supply chains and helped create a strategy for lobbying the UK to introduce domestic legislation on the issue, whereby we wrote to the Prime Minister. I also worked on a report exploring the distinctive role the church can have in communicating and working with local developing communities: they can strengthen democracy, the rule of law, gender equality and respond to healthcare needs, in countries where governments are often unwilling or able to do so. 

Highlights of my year probably were seeing my work actually make a tangible difference!

I used my work in the role of the Church research, in particular the Church’s role as first responders in previous health epidemics like Ebola, to contribute and be featured in both a House of Lords International Relations Committee, and an International Development Select Committee inquiry in the context of how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Getting a selfie with only the second female Prime Minister of the UK, during a parliamentary award show I worked with the Climate Coalition group to organise, also is up there…)

The latter part of my year was completed remotely back at home in Birmingham out of Westminster, yet I did not let this stop me put my faith and call to public service to action. Using the principle of ‘subsidiarity’ as a guide, I focused on supporting my local community during the height of the pandemic and kept a diary and blog on this for CAFOD. I worked as a night time key worker, an NHS volunteer, called lonely ex-veterans, delivered supplies to the shielding for my local food bank, and even knitted baby clothes for hospitals. Thanks to CAFOD’s news team, I ended up writing for, and featuring in, the national newspaper ‘The Mirror’, the Catholic newspapers, and even being interviewed on West Midlands radio!

My internship saw me do and see things I’d never dreamed were possible just a year ago when I was finishing my degree, and see me develop in a way that is invaluable for my future career. Thank you!”