Twelve-year-old Thandolwayo walks seven kilometres daily, on a route inhabited by crocodiles, to collect contaminated water for her family. Born in Zimbabwe, Thandolwayo attends a local school which has just 35 students and thought her dreams of becoming a nurse would be impossible to realise.
This was until aid organisation Caritas Hwange helped Thandolwayo’s village install solar-powered pumps to draw the water up from the river, as well as two 10,000 litre storage tanks. Thanks to this support, water is now on tap in the village, benefitting its 500 residents - and Thandolwayo can concentrate on her education.
“Now I can bathe every day, the distance to collect water for the family has been drastically reduced,” said Thandolwayo. “We now drink clean, safe water and diseases are no longer affecting us.”
This heart-warming story was shared during the Diocese's Project Compassion launch – the annual Lenten campaign which sees millions of Australians come together in solidarity with the world's poor to help end poverty, promote justice and uphold dignity.
This year, the campaign shares six stories which show the power of hope and the work of Caritas Australia in communities in Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Australia, Bangladesh and Vietnam.
To mark the start of Lent, 40 Catholic schools from the Diocese gathered at St Brigid’s Catholic Primary School in Gwynneville to launch the Wollongong appeal.
The 2019 theme launched by Caritas Australia is based around hope and giving Lent 100 percent. On Tuesday 5 March everyone was definitely happy to give it their all, through their prayerful participation in the beautiful liturgy.
"This Lent, we look to demonstrate how hope is possible for all generations, backgrounds, cultures and communities, who are part of our one human family,” said Caritas Diocesan Director for the Diocese, Monica Ward-McCann.
"Supporting Project Compassion is one way we can proclaim the faith that is in our hearts. This enlivens our faith and enables us to accompany our brothers and sisters in their efforts to thrive."
“Jesus has given us a light that shines in the darkness; defend it, protect it. This unique light is the greatest richness entrusted to your life.” - Pope Francis
Guests included Most Rev Brian Mascord, Bishop of Wollongong; Peter Turner, Director of Schools; St Brigid’s parent representative, David Macdonald; Aboriginal artist and respected local Elder, Uncle Kevin Butler; members of the Catholic Education Leadership team; and staff from the Catholic Education Office.
So, how can students in the Diocese help other children like Thandolwayo and encourage one another in faith and hope? During the liturgy, St Brigid’s Year Six student leader and emcee, Celeste, spoke about the importance of compassionate acts of kindness. “Hope allows us to rise above our fear to help those in need to face life’s challenges,” she said.
This message was echoed in the homily of Bishop Brian. “Our support empowers young people to build a hope-filled future for themselves, their families and their communities," he said. "Project Compassion gives us a real sense that we’re not just working for here in Wollongong, but right across the world. We’re saying we want to make a difference because we're followers of Jesus.”
Bishop Brian invited students to consider the ways they can help to bring hope to those in need. “We have begun our Lenten journey on a wonderful note, thinking about how we outreach to others and why,” he explained. “It’s a huge challenge and not something to do just for forty days, but every single day.”
During the liturgy, student representatives were asked to sign a covenant of compassion on behalf of all attendees as a symbol of the collective commitment to help the poor of the world. Each school was then invited to join in this commitment by receiving a Project Compassion mission box and candle to take back to their schools, presented by Bishop Brian and Mrs Ward-McCann.
Ken Bryant, CEDoW’s Head of Service, Catholic Life, Education and Mission offered thanks to the people who made the launch possible. “I would like to thank St Brigid’s, with a special mention to Kathy Uroda, principal of this wonderful school and Anna Arthur-Worsop, Religious Education Coordinator, for their untiring coordination and support,” Mr Bryant said.
“I also offer sincere thanks to Cath Hailstone, CEDoW Primary Education Officer, who coordinated our liturgy along with St Brigid’s and Mrs Ward-McCann. Without Mrs Hailstone’s thorough planning, this wonderful event wouldn’t have occurred.”
St Brigid’s Principal, Ms Uroda said it was a privilege to open their Church and school by hosting the launch. “It was a magnificent celebration which was capably organised and led by St Brigid’s staff: Anna Arthur-Worsop, Nichole Harris, Kate Sparks and our absolutely brilliant Year 6 leaders,” she said.
“We also welcomed to St Brigid’s students from Edmund Rice College, Wollongong who provided enjoyable liturgical music throughout the event: Patrick Sirianni on the trumpet, Thomas Carolan on the cello — both Patrick and Thomas ex-students of our school — and Cameron Carter on the violin.”
Year 11 students from John Therry, Rosemeadow — Sofia, Ella and Luke — said the launch was inspiring and sharing in the experience was valuable, particularly to hear the messages about 'the importance of doing things for others during Lent and beyond' and 'giving to others especially when we are fortunate to have a lot'.
The students said they would take the messages back to their peers through promotion within homerooms, encouraging others to give money for communities that don’t have much.
Congratulations to all student representatives for their participation in the liturgy and for representing themselves — and the Diocese — with such pride.