Can individuals make a difference? Jade Till, CAFOD's regional communications coordinator, certainly thinks so. She took part in the Pilgrimage2Paris last November, a two-week walk from London to the French capital ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference – and knows that the efforts of those who walked did not go unnoticed.
She heard as much from Christiana Figueres, the woman who, as executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, received a petition directly from the Paris pilgrims in the form of a long scroll bearing 1.8 million signatures, all demanding climate justice. "I was at a lecture she gave recently at Imperial College London. She was asked in a Q&A about how individuals can help and she mentioned this pilgrimage and how we had met her and it was inspirational for her – that was lovely to hear," she explains.
Jade's involvement in that Paris walk, which was supported by CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund and the Church of England, has made a difference on a personal note too, opening the door to her current role. "I saw the position was open and as I'd been doing social media on the way to Paris, I thought I could now engage with CAFOD in the wider work they are doing," she says.
Jade took part in the Pilgrimage2Paris after winning a Church of England competition to produce a video diary and blog about the impact of climate change on poor communities. For this, the bubbly 27-year-old drew on some of her experiences of working overseas – specifically her time in Ethiopia, volunteering at two children's homes at the time of the drought in 2011, and in the Middle East, both on a kibbutz in Israel and at the Palestinian Museum of Natural History in Bethlehem. A graduate in Third World Development and International Relations from Derby University, she gained an MA in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response at the University of Manchester before embarking on a series of enriching foreign placements.
Jade, who also taught English in South Korea for a year, spent four months on a European Voluntary Scheme project in the Russian city of Petrozavodsk. "I was working with schools and young people on environmental projects such as recycling and finding ways to promote the environment in their schools," she says. "Petrozavodsk is towards the Arctic Circle and I was there in winter so we had four hours of sunlight a day. It was minus thirty and they said it was a warm winter!"
All these experiences should serve her well in her work with CAFOD, as she acknowledges. "It's great because it combines all my passions," she says, "and you also see the passion of the supporters, fundraisers and the volunteers I have met. The enthusiasm and experience of the staff is enriching. It's such a great atmosphere and no day is the same. One day I might be talking to someone who is running the London marathon and the next I might be talking to someone over in Kenya who is looking at water projects. We're now seeing people migrate because of the climate, rather than war and conflict, and it's great to be able to help them have their voices heard."
• For information about becoming a CAFOD communications volunteer, visit www.cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Latest-campaigns or email firstname.lastname@example.org.