By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Several families living in the Philippines and South America will soon have hope of a better life and livelihood thanks to the students and families at Holy Cross School. Under the leadership of the Student Council, $419.56 was raised during Catholic Schools Week, and will go to Heifer International to purchase a water buffalo for a family in the Philippines, and chickens and a goat for two families in South America.
With service to others the theme of Catholic Schools Week, Student Council Executive Board president Kaitlin Jones said the council discussed some options with their faculty advisor, Rob Stark, who suggested the Heifer Project.
Stark has a daughter working in the Nicaraguan sugar cane fields and, through her experiences, he has “really seen poverty.” The Heifer Project is one way for people to climb out of poverty. Since 1945 Heifer International has given poor families world-wide the means to a better life and livelihoods through the gift of animals, seeds and the training to help them flourish.
After discussing the project with Stark and principal Barb Deane, StuCo members were off and collecting. The Heifer Project was announced to the student body on Service Day, the week before Catholic Schools Week. Eighth grade class President Gabby Mesa said the project received its first big donation from the kindergarten and first grade classes: They had held a change collection drive and a toy drive and swap sale before Christmas, with the proceeds to go to charity. The project appealed to the children as a good charity, and their $136 kicked off the rest of the student body’s efforts.
By the close of Catholic Schools Week, through donations of spare change, parental contributions, and a surprise jeans day incentive, the other $283.56 was raised. The Student Council members had originally selected the water buffalo as their project animal, but when they realized the amount raised would surpass $250, chickens and the goat were added. Stark and the Student Council are waiting on confirmation that the animals have been purchased.
The students are excited about the success of their service project, and about the benefits the animals will bring to the families who receive them. Seventh grade class President Acien Ajing said the water buffalo will help with plowing fields and hauling, as well as provide milk for the family. And if she has a calf, the family will give the calf to another family. According to the Heifer International website, in some communities and areas, “22 generations of Heifer animals can be traced, and on average at least nine generations” of animals have been tracked.
The recipient families will receive extensive training in animal care, feeding and health before they are given the water buffalo, the chickens and the goat. They are also encouraged to share with their neighbors not only what they learned from their training, but also milk and eggs. The family that receives the water buffalo will be expected to help neighbors with tilling and hauling.
The jeans day was won by the sixth grade for collecting more than $100 for the Heifer Project. Third and fourth grade came in a close second, and as the announcement of the top classes was made over the intercom, applause could be heard from the office, Acien said. “It was really nice! It feels good to know what we accomplished, especially during Catholic Schools Week, which was crazy!”
Sixth grade class President Francisco Calva said his class felt very proud. They had tried to bring in all the change they had, and what they could get from their parents, and the result was “jeans, yea!”
Kaitlin said the project made her think. “It’s humbling to be thankful for what you have, even if it’s not much.”
Leslie Estrada Quijano, seventh grade Vice-President, praised her class: “We did good. By participating in the project we are helping other people get animals that will help them get out of poverty.” Those families will help other families through sharing.
Sixth grade Vice-President Jackie Morales said, “It was really fun and great participating in the Heifer Project.”
Parents weighed in on the service project. Student Council Executive Board Secretary, 8th grader Rhianna Jones’ mother said it was “a cool project” and “got all excited about the water buffalo.” Kaitlin’s mom asked, “How much change are you kids going to need?” Acien’s mother asked questions about the amount of change he was hoping she’d contribute. Gabby said her folks were “happy to see us in leadership roles, and helping others.”
Stark said the Holy Cross students and their families are hardworking, but not well off as a whole. Their generosity can be explained by their knowledge and understanding of those in need. “The poor understand the poor best.” The students and their families did what they could for those who have less than they do.
To learn more about Heifer International and The Heifer Project, visit www.heifer.org.