By Jessica Easthope
A group of students navigate their way through a sea of brown paper bags. They’re packed with snacks, water and juice and soon they’ll be in the hands of a newly arrived migrant child.
“The people coming in could be our neighbors, they could be our friends and it’s really important to welcome them with open arms,” said seventh grader Lily Chase.
The students are members of St. Saviour Catholic Academy’s Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice club. Bags filled with nonperishable food are their latest service initiative. They asked students and their families to donate the items to pack and give to CHiPS, a soup kitchen and food pantry in Park Slope.
“We want to show that we want to give back to the community but we don’t want it to be just us four students but the whole school putting in effort to make these people’s lives easier,” said seventh grader Monate Diaz.
More than 42,000 migrants have settled in New York City since August. The amount of people CHiPS feeds every day has doubled – it can’t keep up with the need. The students are putting themselves the migrants’ shoes.
“Catholicism is giving to those less fortunate and spreading God’s message and I think a lot of us don’t understand that sort of thing, those people have struggled with long journeys and it feels good to give back,” said seventh grader Clare Reynolds.
And now their service is getting the attention of city leadership. On Friday, chief of staff of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Miguel Santana came to speak with the students about the migrant crisis. They had burning questions about why migrants come, where they will live and how they can help.
“Especially at a young age to be so civically engaged, I’m floored, they have certain principles and values that they’re bringing to the table from what they’re learning at home and at school and it’s carrying over into the volunteer work they’re doing,” said Santana.
Principal, Susan Walsh says the initiative is their Catholic education at work.
“They come up with these initiatives themselves and they are really living out their Catholic faith, it’s good for them to make the connection as kids that there are people out there who don’t have as much as we do and they’re working to build a better community,” she said.
The 500 bags packed and decorated by students will be delivered to CHiPS on Tuesday.