OTTAWA (CCN) — When Carroll Woods came to an information session for this year’s Share Lent campaign Feb. 11 she brought a shopping bag full of cancelled postage stamps.
A member of St. Leonard’s Parish in Manotick, Woods had read on the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace’s website (devp.org) that stamps could be donated, so she decided to make a box decorated with the organization’s posters and leave it at her church before Christmas.
She received thousands of stamps still affixed to the corners of envelopes and plans to keep the box available for the rest of the year.
Francois Gloutnay, a philatelist (stamp collector) and former staff member at CCODP’s Montreal headquarters, began working with a philatelic team of volunteers in 1992. Now there are about 40 of them, 20 in the Montreal area, another 20 around Quebec City, he said.
“Their main job is to receive all the stamps, to sort them and put them in albums or catalogues,” he said in a phone interview.
Since 1992, the stamp program has raised $417,972 that goes directly to support CCODP programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Gloutnay said. Because of the projects the organization does in these countries, volunteers have many stamps from these countries and that’s of great interest to stamp collectors, he said.
Every month, the philatelists take the stamps to sales in Montreal, Quebec or Beloeil, near Montreal, where about 50 to 60 collectors look at the selections and make their purchases.
In 2013-2014, the program raised $30,393, he said. This year, since September 2014, the program has already generated $15,881 and Gloutnay expects the overall earnings to pass the half-million mark within two years.
Be careful not to damage the perforations around the stamps, Gloutnay said.
Woods left the stamps with CCOPD’s Ottawa animator Genevieve Gallant, who was happy to pass them on to headquarters.
Woods, who has a degree in anthropology, decided to become a parish representative after she retired. She especially likes CCODP’s educational campaigns, because it helps us “know the impact we are having on the world.”
More than a dozen people attended the session Gallant organized to hear details of the lenten fundraising campaign on the theme of “Sow much love to give” on food security, the protection of seed stock or “seed sovereignty,” and support for small family farms that feed 70 per cent of the world’s population.
More than half were newcomers to CCODP. This was Dian Groniger’s first time. “I’ve been ‘voluntold’ to be here,” joked the St. Bernard Parish member. A member of the Catholic Women’s League, Groniger said she hopes to get fellow CWL members involved in bringing CCODP’s message to the parish.
Gallant made a brief presentation, introducing attendees to the materials CCODP has prepared — posters, prayer cards, lenten calendars similar to Advent calendars with daily suggestions for donations and actions such as Feb. 18: “Sow a seed today and watch it grow during Lent.”
She also showed video clips featuring Vadana Shiva, a food security expert from India. CCODP had co-sponsored her visit to Canada recently to give some workshops. The video clips as well as a longer video on an entire interview with Shiva are accessible on the devp.org website, she explained.
Shiva explained how urban development is forcing small farmers to the most marginal and unproductive land; how hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers are forcing farmers into debt and jeopardizing reproducing seeds; and how globalization favouring large-scale agriculture and food companies are making it impossible for small family farms to survive.
Shiva spoke about the web of life around food production, and how we must “see our lives in terms of relationships instead of fragmentation” and “producing food that is a curse for our bodies.”
Gallant explained there are multiple ways to serve CCODP, whether through giving time as a volunteer, or through giving. While the Share Lent campaign is the most publicized, Gallant urged volunteers to spread the word about ways to become monthly donors to support the Catholic bishops’ overseas development agency all year.
Volunteers discussed the best ways to get Share Lent promotional materials to Catholics. Some said they inserted the material into the church bulletins; others said they handed them out after mass because materials in the bulletin were often read and then discarded in the pews; and others said they set up a table where people could help themselves.
Jessica McClure of Blessed Sacrament Parish said handing out the material after mass allowed for opportunities to talk with people “one on one” about the campaign. Angela Davis, of the same parish, said they also set up a table during “coffee Sunday” where they could meet people to discuss the campaign.
“We’re all new,” said Marilyn Dunne of Good Shepherd Parish of her husband and two others. They discussed the timing of giving a talk before mass, on the day before Solidarity Sunday, the fifth Sunday of Lent when the parishes across Canada take up a Share Lent or similar collection as some dioceses include other charities. Dunne said the parish would also see if one of the Fridays the parish does the Stations of the Cross during Lent it could use CCODP’s Solidarity Way of the Cross.