By Tim Harfmann
At Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Academy, South Ozone Park, Queens, students in Mrs. Keaney’s seventh grade classroom are raising money to sponsor underprivileged children on the other side of the world.
The fundraising project is called ‘The Lourdes Mission.’ Our Lady of Perpetual Help is partnering with members of the Koinonia John the Baptist religious community, who are on the ground in South Africa handing off the donations.
Their goal: collect funds to help children receive food, a mattress so they’re not forced to sleep on mud floors and a school uniform – the students can’t attend government-run institutions without one.
“What we like to do is buy and sell snacks, and we give 25 percent to the school and then use the other percent to buy new snacks,” explained Christopher Perez, a seventh grader at the school.
Each grade in the Catholic academy sponsors a child in need. Twenty photos of the students they sponsor line the hallways and classrooms.
Principal Frances DeLuca said the photos help the students connect with who they’re praying for: other students, just like them.
“As all children of God, we’re responsible to love each other the way our Lord loved us,” she said.
“A lot of kids don’t really have the basic necessities or privileges that other kids in more developed countries get, so I think it’s very important to help them,” said Marco Goncalves, an eighth grader at the school.
One of the students the school sponsors is a 17-year-old girl. Both of her parents died, and she now lives with her six siblings at their grandmother’s house.
Besides monetary needs, the Queens students are feeding spiritual needs, too.
“They can believe in God, and that they have hope. And to give faith that it will get better soon,” said Christopher.
“The Catholic faith teaches us to always help the poor and always help needy, so I think that’s a very big part of it,” Marco added.
Their principal said at a young age, her students are learning God’s work.