Students committed to making a difference
09 Feb 2024
Students from Holy Spirit Primary St Clair joined students from host-school St Finbar’s Primary Glenbrook and many others for the launch of Project Compassion.
Students from Catholic schools across the Parramatta Diocese are walking in solidarity this Lent, as they support Project Compassion, a Caritas Australia initiative.
Students from more than 25 schools across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains came together in person at St Finbar’s Primary Glenbrook and virtually online for the launch of the 2024 Project Compassion, committing to raise funds and awareness for people living in some of the most vulnerable communities around the world.
Project Compassion runs through the six weeks of Lent and involves students working together to support marginalised communities across the globe.
The theme of this year’s campaign is “For All Future Generations” and invites students and school communities to make simple lifestyle changes and to act for social and environmental justice in solidarity with people here in Australia and around the world.
Run by the Diocese of Parramatta and the Catholic Schools Parramatta Parramatta Diocese (CSPD) Mission team, the launch presented students with compelling videos of personal stories outlining the impact of poverty and injustice on different international communities.
“I genuinely saw the need to want and be more,” said CSPD Acting Mission Manager Tania Melki who was impressed by the passion shown by students to support those in need. “That real thirst and passion, especially from our primary school students, who sometimes we think there's not much that they can do but they have shown me too that they've got the loudest voice.”
Bishop Vincent Long greeted students and teachers at the Project Compassion launch at St Finbar’s Primary Glenbrook.
Speaking at the launch, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, encouraged students to follow in Jesus’ footsteps by lifting up and supporting the poor.
“I encourage you to work together within your schools and beyond, in partnership with Caritas Australia, to make a difference…we can change the world together with one another and with the power of God in Christ.”
Executive Director Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD) Jack de Groot, highlighted the focus that every CSPD school has in developing young people with a sense of social responsibility and an understanding of their place in the wider world. “You are students with a global view of the world. In our Catholic schools we want each of our students to know that you are committed to our world. You are the future generations who have an extraordinary opportunity to be more for the world.”
CSPD Executive Director Jack de Groot spoke to students at the Project Compassion launch.
Students heard about Ronita, a young mother in the Philippines, who was facing financial hardship and at risk of having to leave school permanently. With the support of Caritas Australia’s partners in the Philippines, she resumed her studies and now has a job to support her family. Similarly, Memory, a young woman in Malawi, faced many barriers to her education. The work of Caritas Australia and CADECOM (Catholic Development Commission in Malawi), enabled Memory to enrol in a technical school and become the first female carpenter in her village.
The story of Leaia, living in Samoa, with very limited access to clean water for her and her five children, had a big impact on many around the room. Caritas Australia was able to provide practical assistance in the form of a water tank, installed at their home, improving their health and living conditions.
“It was so lovely hearing all the stories bringing awareness, especially how Caritas has helped so many people,” said St Clare’s Catholic High Year 12 student, Penelope who is from a Samoan family. “Hearing that Project Compassion will potentially help family members that are from Samoa, maybe some relatives of mine. It does mean a lot to me.”
The students were inspired by these accounts of how the work of Caritas can make such a difference in underprivileged communities, and emerged determined to act as a catalyst for change and equality.
All the students in attendance left the launch motivated to ‘do more’ and ‘be more’. Zoe, a Year 6 student from St Finbar’s Primary was excited for her school to be hosting the launch and says she and her classmates have already started planning how they can help.
“We came up with some great ideas for how we can support Project Compassion. We're talking about having a movie day where we can sell items at our canteen for students to eat and drink while watching the movie,” said Zoe.
Students and teachers from Our Lady of the Nativity Primary Lawson contributed some great ideas for how they can support Project Compassion.
CathWest Innovation College, St Monica’s Primary North Parramatta, St Bernadette’s Primary Castle Hill and Our Lady of the Nativity Primary Lawson contributed ideas such as donut or cupcake sales, sausage sizzles, read-a-thons, crazy sock and hair days and even donating money they would normally use for their own canteen treats.
Caritas Australia Community Fundraising Manager, Leanne Langdon found the day extremely rewarding and was grateful for the opportunity to share ideas and have conversations with teachers and students about what they can do for Project Compassion.
“I had a look around and was reading the notes that students had written… really good fundraising ideas,” she said. “One thing that stood out was seeing compassion across all of the pages. I always think about our name, Project Compassion, and it really does work so well for the fundraising campaign. It is all about compassion.”
Project Compassion is Caritas Australia’s annual Lenten fundraising and awareness-raising appeal. For each of the six weeks of Lent, thousands of Australians come together in solidarity to help end poverty, promote justice and uphold dignity. To donate, pick up a donation box or envelopes at your local parish, visit the website or phone 1800 024 413.
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