Five youngsters put off university to work for Cafod in Africa

Five youngsters from across Britain are planning to Step into the Gap with Cafod and become well-rounded leaders of the future.

With A-level results released last month many teenagers have been scrambling to secure a place at university and decide on the next path to take.

But Jonathon Lord, 21, Rachel McCarthy, 21, Maria Horkan, 23, Rebecca Ewenhies, 18, and Tom Kitchen, 18, have chosen to put university plans on hold. They will dedicate their time and effort this year to work with Cafod, the international aid agency, spending time with communities in Britain before embarking on an overseas trip to Africa in January 2011.

Survey results by Gapforce released recently show that graduates are happier, more confident and independent if they take a gap year before university, making the scheme all the more desirable.

Step into the Gap is a Cafod-run programme, which enables Catholic students to work with local communities in a variety of settings such as schools, parishes and retreat centres, before taking their skills overseas to spend time with Cafod partners, who work with local communities to alleviate poverty and tackle social injustice.

Helen Gough, from the leadership development team at Cafod, said: “Step into the Gap is a year out with a difference that demands total commitment from the participants, but the journey they go on will help them to develop leadership skills and build relationships that will last forever. It really is a life-changing experience.”

The highlight of the scheme, the four-week trip to Africa, will enable the gappers to gain a priceless experience to add to their CVs and enhance their future job prospects. More importantly, they will be given the chance to learn about themselves and the world we live in, while sharing their experience with other young Catholics.

The scheme, which is supported by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, is now in its second year.

Jo Kitterick, Cafod’s head of education, said: “We’re delighted to be continuing this new scheme for young adults that we hope will give them a really life-changing experience. “We recognise that many young Catholics want to explore the world and gain new skills and also expand their faith.”

Nelson Mandela once said: “Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great.” This group of creative, intelligent young people have already proven they have what it takes to be young leaders of the future. As they embark on this next stage of their lives, Cafod are proud to make the journey with them.

Jonathon Lord is from Lancaster, Rachel McCarthy from Clifton, Rebecca Ewenhies from Hounslow and Maria Horkhan from Middlesborough.