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Posts tagged ‘volunteer’

Hopes Comes Alive!

By Kim Cavallero

Last night, I had the privilege of attending the 10th Anniversary celebration of Hope Partnership for Education, an educational center founded by the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus and the Sisters of Mercy in North Philadelphia. Hope is a middle school serving fifth through eighth graders, as well as the families of the students.

I have worked for the Society of the Holy Child (SHCJ) for the past 10 years. When I began with the SHCJ in 2002, Hope was just a dream. Now, it’s a reality. It’s been amazing to watch the transformation—not only in the school becoming a reality (though funding is still greatly needed for the school to have a building of its own), but also in the students who have had the benefit of attending Hope Partnership.

One of those students is Tyrik Harris, a seventh-grader. Last year, I had the privilege of interviewing Tyrik and his grandmother, Elaine Selby, for a video we created for our Annual Holy Child Awards Dinner Event. At the time, Tyrik shared with me that he went to the local public school in his neighborhood until fifth grade. He told me it wasn’t a good school—there were bullies, food fights, and “writings on the wall—mean things.” His grandmother shared that Tyrik’s behavior was worsening in the public school and she feared he would hurt himself or someone else. She learned about Hope and was able to get Tyrik enrolled. Today, the staff at Hope reports that Tyrik is one of the most well-behaved children there.

Tyrik’s story inspired me last year. But I beamed with pride last night at Hope’s event when I saw him, along with several of his classmates, perform an incredible drumming presentation, that had the more than 300 attendees at the event on their feet! (Please excuse the video quality. Seeing the talent of the students, I quickly shot a video with my iPhone camera!)


In addition, Mayor Michael Nutter stopped by the event last evening, offering his congratulations to all who have made Hope Partnership a reality. He shared that education is the most important gift we can give to our young people today, noting that it is the way out of poverty. At the event, Rose Gray was honored with the Igniting Hope Award and Karen Rowley was honored with the Embracing Hope Award. Both women have been integral to Hope’s success and powerful advocates for education and its power.

Hope is changing lives, but they need our support to do it. You can make a donation online through our website and designate that your gift is for Hope.

Kim Cavallero is Director of Communications for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus – American Province.

Lessons Learned in the DR

By Kim Cavallero
With my flight back to the United States tomorrow, my week here in the Dominican Republic is winding to a close. It’s been quite an adventure and I am thankful to Holy Child Sisters Kathleen King, Mary Alice Minogue, and Ann-Joyce Peters, for warmly welcoming me into their community, along with the three Holy Child Volunteers, Brooke, Kristen, and Elle, who are living here for a year and teaching in the school at the Society’s mission site. I’m come a long way since arriving last week—and I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. Here’s a quick rundown of a few—some more humorous than others.

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Lesson #1 – Mosquito netting is important.
Make sure your mosquito netting is tucked in fully all around your bed and/or that you don’t trap any mosquitoes inside the net with you. Fail to do it right and you will wake up with at least 7-10 mosquito bites. Pack some hydrocortisone. (I could have used it.)

Lesson #2 – Hot water and water pressure are overrated. Compassion and humor are not.
When I first arrived last Saturday, Sister Ann-Joyce was showing me the “shower,” which essentially is a single stream of cold water running from a faucet. I’m sure she could see the horrified look on my face, but quite calmly and humorously, she just looked at me and said, “Well, it’s not going to win a prize or anything, but you know….”

A few days later, she showed me how to heat up some water so you could have some warm water with which to take a shower. She then showed me different pitchers you can use to pour the warm water over your head and said, “Everyone establishes her own system.” I took her word for it. After heating the water, I hopped in the shower. A few moments later, she yelled in, “How are you doing in there, Kim? You think you might stay a few more days?” I still wonder what she would have done if I had said, “No!” The point is I adapted and got used to it thanks to Sister Ann-Joyce’s humor and compassion! (I will say that hand sanitizer, cleansing face wipes, and dry shampoo are helpful to have here.)

Lesson #3 – Bring earplugs or a desire to dance the night (and day) away.
Roosters don’t just crow in the early morning hours. They like to crow at all times of the day and night. In addition, the people here love to play music—all the time. There is a constant, steady stream of noise: roosters, chickens, dogs, music, and people yelling. Silence is not important here. If it is to you, bring some earplugs!

Lesson #4 – Living without electricity isn’t so bad.
Where I am staying, the electricity is usually on from about 6:00-7:00 p.m. in the evening until 9:00 a.m. the next morning. In the U.S., when the electricity goes out—even for a few hours—it is a huge inconvenience for many of us. Here, it is a way of life and people just go about their day. They’re flexible and they adapt. Nonetheless, be sure to use a surge protector or risk blowing out electronic items such as your computer’s AC power source. (I’ll be buying a new one next week.)

Lesson #5 – Don’t jump to the worst conclusion. There are good people everywhere.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a very organized person (some might say in a neurotic way!), but this trip has thrown me for a loop and my organizational skills have disappeared into thin air! For example, yesterday, after doing some sight seeing in the city, we arrived home and I soon realized that my wallet was missing. I tore apart suitcases and bags—anywhere I thought it might be, but it didn’t turn up.

Within a few hours, I had canceled my credit and bank cards, assuming I had been pick-pocketed. The last place I remembered having it was in a shop where I had made a purchase. I had the receipt and asked Sister Ann-Joyce if she would be willing to call the store and ask them in Spanish if I had left my wallet there. It was a long shot, but it was my only shot.

Sister Ann-Joyce called the store this morning and sure enough they had it and were holding it for me. They explained that they didn’t have any way to contact me, which is why they hadn’t called. There are good people all over the world who do the right thing.

Homeward Bound
This week has been an adventure. It has challenged and stretched me to grow in ways I never imagined. I have seen people living in extreme poverty in Batey Lecheria and yet, they are full of gratitude for the simple gift of your presence. I arrived in fear last week, but am departing in peace tomorrow—and full of gratitude. Read Kim’s first and second blog posts.

Kim Cavallero is the Director of Communications for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus – American Province.

Between Heaven and Hell

By Kim Cavallero

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There is a stark contrast here in the Dominican Republic’s Batey Lecheria, where the Sisters of the Holy Child began a mission site in 1995. I heard one person describe it as “being between heaven and hell.” You look up and see a brilliant blue sky, lush green palm trees, and fluffy white clouds. You look down and see dirt roads, barely habitable shacks, and half-clothed children, many who have been abused and/or abandoned. They run through the streets and cling to anyone who they think will give them attention. Today, I was almost knocked over as four children, whom I had never met, grabbed onto me at the same time and wouldn’t let go.

But this week, the children of Batey Lecheria have been getting some extra attention, as have many of the residents here. Twelve parishioners from St. Luke’s in Charlotte, NC arrived on Monday morning to give a week of their time and energy to this community. This is the seventh year St. Luke’s has embarked on a mission trip here. The parishioners each paid $400 to come, with the remaining cost of the trip ($450 per person) raised through fund-raisers held throughout the year at St. Luke’s. Click here to hear from parishioner Jamar McKoy, who is making his first trip to Batey Lecheria this week.

Inspiring Experiences

Here in Batey Lecheria, the parishioners have undertaken a hodgepodge of activities this week: painting the shacks; playing baseball with the children; teaching the children how to paint and tie-dye t-shirts; and organizing and leading classes for the women in how to make sock dolls, jewelry, and other items that are then sold in the U.S. for a fair profit, which is returned to the women.

“You get a whole new sense of poverty here,” says parishioner Amber Ockerbloom. “There is a constant need. You can’t come once and not come again. You have to be open to what you are going to do because there’s always a place to do something here.” Along with Ockerbloom, parishioners Debby and Jim Lawrence share that you get as much as you give in Batey Lecheria, noting that the love they receive from the residents is so much more than they give to them.

A “Self-Sustaining” Trip

In addition to giving their time, the St. Luke’s parishioners bring suitcases full of donated medical supplies for the medical clinic the Sisters of the Holy Child began and run at the mission site, as well as all the supplies for the different projects they undertake such as painting the houses and making sock dolls. At the end of the trip, they leave the clothes they wore during the week for the residents of Batey Lecheria, who later sell them and make a small profit. “We clean out our closets or we go to Good Will before we leave the U.S. and buy the clothes we will need for the trip,” explains parishioner Cindy Platko. The parishioners also buy the suitcases that they bring the medical supplies in at Good Will and then leave the suitcases behind.

Platko, who is a school nurse, and her husband, Greg, lived with the Sisters of the Holy Child for a year, while serving the residents of Batey Lecheria. The couple had done mission trips to Batey Lecheria and felt they could do so much more by serving for a longer period of time alongside the Sisters of the Holy Child. They now return to Batey Lecheria twice a year. “Coming here is like coming home and seeing family for me,” shares Platko. During return trips, Platko spends her afternoons making house calls to residents. For example, she brings aspirin to a woman whose hip was broken and never repaired four years ago.

Platko and her husband are akin to celebrities in Batey Lecheria, though they certainly are too humble and focused on the work at hand to consider their “celebrity status.” Since the moment they arrived, shouts for “Cindy” and “Gregorio” (as the residents call Greg) never end. The residents are thrilled to see them and they bring joy wherever they go in Batey Lecheria, just as all the St. Luke’s parishioners who are here this week have. “We’re a parish of action,” says Ockerbloom. How exciting it is for the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus to see so many people committed to the motto of their congregation: “Actions Not Words.” Read Kim’s first and last blog post from her journey.

Kim Cavallero is the Director of Communications for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus – American Province.

Come and See

By Barbara Bartlett, SHCJ

After returning from Africa in February 2004, I moved to the Newton Street Community of Holy Child Sisters in Washington, D.C. While investigating possible ministries there, I came across a letterhead from Boys Town. I then discovered that there was a Boys Town facility quite close to the Brookland area where I lived.

In my final 10 years in Africa, I had served on the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Jos. As coordinator, I was particularly interested in human rights and children’s issues. My dream of an Archdiocesan children’s project became a reality thanks to a supportive team of young men and women. We worked for several years and, despite some discouraging experiences, were able to establish the Care for Children Project of the Archdiocese of Jos in Northern Nigeria. We had generous board members and were also fortunate in getting financial help from foundations and individual donors.

With this previous experience, I wished to continue working with youth in distressed situations, so when I saw the Boys Town letter I felt perhaps God was calling me to “come and see.” One Sunday morning, I did just that. After a 20-minute walk from our house, I met a young couple on the driveway of Boys Town. They were driving some of the boys to church, but they greeted me warmly and when I expressed interest in their work, they asked me to return the next day to speak to the director. I did return and, over the years, have become involved in programs there. As a volunteer, I am able to attend activities, give workshops and retreats to staff members, and serve on the local advisory committee.

This Washington-based Boys Town is one of 16 satellite campuses of the original one, which continues to flourish in Omaha, Nebraska. There are different programs offered by each. The one in D.C. is multi-faceted. It includes a shelter for short term care (one to two months in length), four family group homes whose residents can stay two or more years, a foster care program which recruits, trains, and monitors foster parents, and good parenting classes. Their newest project is preparing staff members to go to homes where interventions might be of assistance to its members.

I try to visit Boys Town monthly; it is not a “have to” experience. I may go to a group home for a meal with the family and boys, or attend an advisory committee meeting, or one of the various activities going on at the campus. Last December, I attended their annual tree lighting ceremony which included songs, recitation of some of the boys’ compositions, along with the lighting of the tree and refreshments in the homes and shelter.

An added surprise for me was the presentation of a certificate making me an Honorary Citizen of Boys Town. This framed certificate now sits on my bookshelf reminding me of my commitment to the program. It is often said that when there is involvement in a service project, there is usually more received than given.  This is true of my relationship with Boys Town. The two directors I have known, the two national directors (both Catholic priests), the committee members with whom I have worked, and the inspiring staff all challenge me by their dedication to their work. It is a privilege to share in these efforts. One of the committee members is an elderly naval chaplain who was one of Father Flanagan’s boys. It was he who was instrumental in bringing a campus to D.C.

A plaque now stands next to my certificate. It was given to me this Christmas, and its timeless message, “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s m’ brother” now also serves as a renewed invitation to visit the nearby campus, once again to “come and see.”

Providence Center: A Family Affair

Rosita Perez (center) takes a break from volunteering at Providence Center’s Christmas Celebration at the Julio deBurgos Elementary School to bond with her children: (l to r) Angel, 11; Luis, 6; and Ashley, 9.

Submitted by Maurine Dooley

“It was the best thing I ever did,” said Rosita Perez of her decision to enroll her three children in Providence Center’s After School Program (ASP) in Philadelphia, Pa. Her children had asked many times to go to the program because they saw friends and classmates at the Julio deBurgos Elementary School, where the program is held enjoying the attention and assistance provided by mentors and volunteers at ASP.

Rosita, who is a busy wife and mother works at the Marriot Hotel as a Breakfast Ambassador and she helps in caring for her mother who has had several serious surgeries recently. She visited ASP and talked with the Program Director, Gloria Rodriguez-Soto, and was impressed. Her three children, eleven-year-old Angel Mendez, nine-year-old Ashley Mendez, and 6-year-old Luis Bones were registered soon after that meeting. It was not long before this Philadelphia native and graduate of Lincoln High School became a volunteer in Providence Center’s After School Program. 

Rosita’s daily schedule is overwhelming. She is up at 4 a.m. to travel to the Willow Grove Marriott, where she provides guest breakfast service. At 10 a.m., she leaves work and heads to her mother’s home to help her with errands and to take her to doctors’ appointments. Around 3 p.m., she is on her way to Providence Center’s After School Program to volunteer. The family arrives home about 6 p.m. when Rosita makes dinner followed by baths and preparation for the next school day. At 8 p.m., she takes her three children to her mother’s home where they spend the night so she can leave early the next morning for work. Home again, she washes dishes, cleans up, watches the 11 p.m. news and finally gets a few hours of sleep before her day starts again! Weekends are quiet, and include family game nights and Mass on Sunday.

What makes Rosita so remarkable is that when that her children are at ASP, she could be resting—after being up since 4:00 a.m.—but instead she chooses to take that time to volunteer. While Providence Center and the Sisters of the Holy Child have always made it a point to help the community, Rosita shows us that the true help is in giving those people in the community the opportunity to help themselves. Rosita was looking for a program that could assist her in cultivating her children’s education—not just a babysitter.

Actions Not Words

Mrs. Cynthia Boyle, Principal of St. Mary's; Dr. Jane Fay DesForges; and Sister Mary Samson

By Sr. Mary Samson, SHCJ

Volunteerism is such a popular word today. The Venerable Cornelia Connelly termed it “Actions Not Words.” When Mother Connelly, as the Sisters of the Holy Child refer to her as, designed the first Profession Cross for the Sisters, she had the motto “Actions Not Words” on the back. The words were never actually inscribed on it, but have been engraved in the heart of every Sister of the Holy Child and every graduate of a Holy Child School since 1846. 

It’s not surprising. Remember, Mother Connelly was a wife, mother, working mother, lay teacher, sometimes single mother, Foundress of a religious congregation, and administrator. Little wonder that “Actions Not Words” held such meaning in her life that she passed it on to all of us. She also knew, as do we, that no religious institution can survive more than 100 years without Words becoming Action in the lives of so many people. 

Celebration At St. Mary’s
Last October, at St. Mary’s School in Melrose, Mass., a special celebration was held that marked the end of the Bicentennial Celebration for the 200th Anniversary of Cornelia’s birth, and the beginning of the celebration for the 100th Anniversary of St. Mary’s School.

At that celebration, there were people present who are fourth and fifth generation St. Mary’s. We recall the roles our parents and grandparents took on. Fathers painted and drove the Sisters everywhere, because we did not drive until the 1950s. Cafeteria Mothers provided hot lunches for the children who lived more than a mile away, as well as a hot breakfast for all of us on First Fridays. Parents ran the Blanket Club and Pantry Showers to help the Sisters and collected for Holy Child Missions. And that names only a few of the hundreds of ACTIONS!    

Unsung Heroes
Many religious communities keep both community and school Journals. About a year ago, I began researching our Journals. In 1918, the name of a lay teacher first appears. In 1937, the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) was established. I also recalled that when I was in school at St. Mary’s, a dentist, Dr. Lynn, came to examine our teeth and suggested needed dental care.    

Then, as I was reading, I realized Dr. Lynn was one of many doctors who came to the school. While reading, I was struck by the number of children who died. Why? Before I discovered that answer, I saw the name of Dr. Fay. He was in the school every week for months at a time and examined every child. A Dr. O’Donnell and Dr. Holden joined him. Then it became clear:     

  • In 1910, the school was closed for over a month because of Diphtheria.
  • In 1916, the opening of school was put off a month because of an outbreak of Infantile Paralysis.
  • In 1918, there was the Spanish Flu epidemic which affected children so badly.
  • In 1919, Scarlet Fever was rampant.

Of course the Sisters’ health was in jeopardy because of being with the children and Dr. Fay is named as the Sisters’ physician. Those were the days of house calls, little or no health insurance, and doctors treated Sisters and Priests without charge. His was the gentle medical presence when a Sister died.

Paying Tribute
Dr. Fay established a tradition of health care that included other doctors such as Drs. Richards, Martin, Sullivan, Murphy, and Small. And I am sure there were others.  Last fall, Sr. Helen T. McDonald, SHCJ, Leader of the Society’s American Province, and I presented a plaque to Dr. Joseph Fay’s daughter, Dr. Jane Fay DesForges. 

In light of the two milestones we were marking, the ending the Bicentennial Year of the Venerable Cornelia Connelly and the beginning the 100th Anniversary of St. Mary’s School, we wanted to pay tribute to the hundreds of past and present volunteers, who live “Actions Not Words,” by honoring the memory of the first Doctor mentioned in both the Convent and School Journals, Dr. Joseph Fay.  

In speaking of her father, Dr. Jane Fay DesForges recalled that “he loved working on the children with the Sisters and that he took the care of the children very seriously,” and said, “I can’t tell you how important the nuns were and what respect he had for them and their giving their lives to the children.” 

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