2016-11-25 / Community

Students help Africa children have clean water

Since early last year, the kindness and generosity of students at Holy Cross School in South Portland and All Saints School in Bangor have helped pave the way for families in Zimbabwe to afford their children’s tuition fees at Ngamo Primary School.

Now, further benevolence from the two Maine Catholic schools has assisted in providing fresh water to the nearby Ngamo Secondary School.

“When I visited last summer, the well at the secondary school had collapsed,” said Christine L’Abbé, principal of Holy Cross School. “Donations from Holy Cross and All Saints helped pay for piping so they can pipe water from the primary school to the secondary school. It’s the first time they’ve had fresh water in nearly a year.”

Ngamo has informed L’Abbé that Holy Cross and All Saints were the major donors for the project. In addition to the piping, the schools’ combined donations of nearly $4,000 also assisted in renovations for the teachers’ cottage. The contributions enabled Ngamo to purchase poles, wires and cement for the structure.

The unlikely relationship began in March 2015 when L’Abbé visited Ngamo Primary School during an African safari. She learned that students were sent home if they couldn’t pay their school fees.

“I couldn’t believe it. The school fees are $10 a trimester, and $30 for the year. Yet, many can’t afford to pay it,” L’Abbé said.

After discovering how a little effort could make a big difference, the Holy Cross community decided to adopt the school and began brainstorming ways that they could help. Bake sales, a Tootsie Pop sale, and other fundraisers were organized and more than $400 initially rolled in, but the kindness, like the proceeds, had only just begun.

“After listening to Chris talk about her experiences visiting Ngamo and how children were turned away because their parents could not afford the $10 tuition fee, I asked myself what would Jesus want us to do,” said Joseph Gallant, principal of All Saints School in Bangor. “I prayed and the answer became obvious. I called Chris the next day and asked if All Saints could help.”

Gallant explained the situation at Ngamo to his students during a prayer assembly. He announced that All Saints would hold a “dress down” day. Students could dress down if they brought in a donation for the students in Zimbabwe. The school raised $700. During the 2016 Catholic Schools Week in January, Holy Cross students participated in a “penny wars” competition and the students at Ngamo emerged as the big winners with the proceeds totaling more than $1,440.

In August of this year, L’Abbé returned to Zimbabwe to visit Ngamo. Unlike her previous visit, this voyage ended with celebration, not sadness.

“The school had prepared an assembly and celebration for us,” she said. “The entire school and many of the parents were outside. The way the school shows its appreciation is through singing and dancing. The parents got involved, even the principal danced.”

Both Holy Cross and All Saints aim to keep the celebration going this school year with new fundraisers and a reinforcement: St. Michael School in Augusta is joining the team with plans to hold dress down days benefiting Ngamo as well.

“When I first saw Chris doing this for her school so that they could learn about our brothers and sisters around the world, I just wanted our school to be a part of it,” said Kevin Cullen, principal at St. Michael School. “When I see our students at their best, it is when they are helping others. Through this, we will see the best from our students and their families, doing what Jesus has asked us to do.”

Along the way, school families continue to donate items like clothes and sporting equipment to the village and the pool of additional fundraising ideas continues to grow.

In addition, students at the Maine schools trade letters, pictures, and videos with the children at Ngamo. Real connections have been made thanks to the merciful acts of great kids and a simple visit to a small school more than 8,000 miles away.

“It is exciting to see the impact that a small amount of money can do for a school and community across the world,” L’Abbé said. “Between the three schools and additional support from the community, my goal is to raise $10,000 this year. We could help provide uniforms, more tuition assistance and additional infrastructure work. It is just great to see kids helping kids.”

Those interested in donating to the Ngamo project can make a check out to the “D3 Foundation” and send the check to: Holy Cross School, c/o Chris L’Abbé, 436 Broadway, South Portland, ME 04106.

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