Just like the small Project Compassion donations boxes that make such a big change in the world, there’s a small Catholic school in the Blue Mountains that has made a big impact in raising awareness and funds for some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.
Our Lady of the Nativity Primary Lawson has around just 100 students but the entire school community has rallied together during Lent to celebrate a series of events and fundraising initiatives, all revolving around the 2021 Caritas Australia Project Compassion appeal theme “BE MORE”.
Caritas Australia heard about the efforts of the school and were amazed when they saw all the school’s social media posts.
“When a colleague told me about the events going on at Our Lady of the Nativity through Lent, we spent some time scrolling through the school’s Facebook page,” said Caritas Australia Social and Ecological Justice Animator NSW/ACT Chris Nolan. “Not only did we see all the amazing fundraising efforts, but we were so impressed with the wonderful engagement of students in Thong Thursday and learning the school prayer in sign language. It is heartening to see the school community connect with the communities Caritas Australia supports.”
“I believe we engaged with Project Compassion as a community this year more than any other,” said Our Lady of the Nativity Primary Principal Lisa Samojlowicz. “We were united in our work due to our involvement in the Draft New Curriculum for Religious Education. Our planning around each stage’s Learning Cycles allowed us to identify connections with not only the work of Project Compassion but also the work of each stage group across the school. We were able to ‘BE MORE’ together!”
Students in Year 5 and 6 took the lead in organising many of the events which began with a whole school Liturgy on Ash Wednesday. The day ended with students taking home individual Project Compassion boxes.
In the second week, Thong Thursday was a massive hit. While students loved getting around school in casual footwear, everyone understood the important message with students asked to think about ‘walking in the shoes’ of those supported by Caritas Australia such as Jamila.
Jamila’s story and others highlighted by Project Compassion this year were featured by the school in various ways over the last month, including at a special cupcake stall where students raised funds and enjoyed the cupcakes while learning from their fellow students about vulnerable communities.
“Jamila is a single mother from Myanmar,” explained Year 6 student Eleanor. “There were bombings in her village so she had to flee, walking all the way to a refugee camp in Bangladesh with nothing. Project Compassion helped her find food, shelter and clean water and gave her health and hygiene training so she could look after her kids and her community through the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“I learnt how war and things like that force some people to flee their homes,” added Year 6 student Emersyn. “It makes me realise how lucky we are here in Australia and that we should try not to take things for granted.”
In the third week of Lent, CEDP Leading Teacher Lynda Beckingham visited to help students learn the school prayer in sign language and in week four, everyone participated in a Clean Up Australia Day.
“Kindergarten students were able to make the connection to their Learning Cycle in knowing Jesus as a friend,” said Our Lady of the Nativity Religious Education Coordinator Lauren Maund. “They talked about how when they picked up rubbish, went without the technology and were kind to others, they were being a kind friend just like Jesus.”
On 19 March the school celebrated St Joseph’s Day and Harmony Day. On arriving at school, students were greeted by a giant balloon arch proclaiming the message ‘Bullying No Way – Kindness Everyday’ and students wore orange mufti in support of Say No to Bullying. They also decorated rocks that ended up as part of a special ‘Kindness Rocks’ garden, created kindness artwork and recorded kindness pledges in a special photo booth.
The final event was titled TechNO Tuesday and also included a special ‘1 Thing for Lunch’ lunch.
“The cupcake stall was all about giving back,” said Year 6 students Mia R, Euan, Clodagh, and Ava. “Thong Thursday was about walking in other people’s shoes. 1 Thing for Lunch helped us realise what it’s like to not have much food and TechNO Tuesday was about learning what it’s like to go without technology.”
“The key learning is that a cake stall is not going to solve all the world’s problems,” added Lisa. “In fact, knowing another person’s story and putting ourselves in their shoes is more powerful as it helps to create awareness and a greater sense of understanding and empathy for others.”
There was also a special presentation for Year 2 student Frankie in recognition of the random act of kindness she instigated late last year. The Penrith Panthers heard about her gesture of giving a Grand Final jersey to a less fortunate child and sent her a special package full of goodies.
Aside from raising valuable funds, students were inspired to learn more about the hardships and difficulties faced by people around the world.
“I learnt about how people are suffering through the coronavirus,” said Year 6 student Jack. “We think we’re suffering a lot through the coronavirus but there’s lots of people out there who are suffering a lot more because they don’t have homes or shelter and that’s much harder to live with. I learnt that if we donate, we can really help them.”
“Listening to our student’s voices and enabling them to put their ideas into action made this Lent so much more meaningful to our community,” said Lauren Maund.
With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.