Local Face: Maureen Blinman

It was in 1984, when those terrible pictures of famine in Ethiopia were shown, that Maureen Blinman felt she should do something, anything. With a South African mother and a lifetime of interest in Africa, especially since college days, this disaster required action.

What could a busy person do with husband and five children not to mention home and garden to look after as well as a teaching job? Serendipity brought the idea of an ongoing Bring and Buy sale so on the first Sunday of Advent 1984, Maureen set up a little table in the porch of St Anne’s Church. People brought Bric-a-Brac and voluntary donations on the way into Mass then browsed and bought on their way out.

By Christmas she had raised nearly £500 and popular demand meant that the table has become a permanent feature used by everyone who worships there. Maureen sent the proceeds to CAFOD (Catholic Fund for Overseas Development) and thereby became the local representative. From the continuation of this simple idea she is able to send about £40 every month with other fundraising events boosting this amount from time to time. For example in September Maureen held her annual Bring and Buy at her home, supported by members of all the Churches in Wendover and Halton which raised over £100!

CAFOD supports local projects in the developing world and much of their work is now being hindered by over 100 million landmines. In Cambodia one in every 236 people is an amputee, in the United States it is only one in every 22,000. Vigils of prayer were organised in Cathedrals and Churches countrywide to pray for the UN inhumane Weapons Review Conference held on 25 September. Maureen and a team of helpers from all the Wendover churches, organised the St. Anne’s Vigil. Similar vigils are held countrywide.

This was the culmination of a campaign running throughout the summer whereby 46,000 people country-wide signed the “Butterfly Cards”, which were the same size as the soviet PFM-1 Landmine particularly common in Afghanistan. This has two wings and is the size of a hand. It is very attractive to children who often think it looks like a toy and is capable of blowing off a child’s arm.

Sadly, however, despite these successes CAFOD is facing a very serious financial situation. The general income for long term development programmes, which is the backbone of CAFOD’s work, has been significantly down over the last two years. Consequently CAFOD is having to cut back on some of its key projects by almost 20% for the coming year. At this time of year we are lucky enough to celebrate Harvest Festivals. CAFOD gives us an opportunity to help those who have no harvest this year. Friday 6th October is CAFOD Harvest Fast Day. The idea is that we should forego one meal on that day and give the money saved to CAFOD. Little green envelopes will be distributed at St. Anne’s on Sunday 1st October, if you would like to make a donation, any old envelope will do as long as it is marked CAFOD. It must be handed into St. Anne’s on the morning of Sunday 8th October or to a parishioner beforehand.

Maureen and Michael Blinman came to live in Lionel Avenue in 1970, deciding that this was a pleasant place to make their home, not far from her parents in Aylesbury. Until then they had led a peripatetic existence due to Michael’s work but now have enjoyed 25 happy, fulfilling years here. They love the area so much that when their children started to flee the nest they decided to make their retirement home in Halton which is open house for children and grandchildren as well as friends.

Maureen has always been a great believer in “knocking down fences” to “build bridges” as demonstrated by her involvement of the whole community in her projects.