Holy Family students answer pope’s call to be ‘protagonists’ of change

| Renee Stewart-Hester for The Catholic Spirit | August 15, 2013 | 0 Comments

Students from Besrate Gabriel School in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, greet Holy Family High School senior Emily Kirsch as she begins her teaching day. Holy Family students taught math and English as part of their service program. Photo courtesy of Renee Stewart-Hester

As he departed from Brazil’s World Youth Day, Pope Francis proclaimed, “I ask that you be protagonists, overcoming apathy and offer a Christian response to social and political worries.”

Students from Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria are heeding the pontiff’s charge. After returning in July from a three-week cultural exchange and service mission trip to Ethiopia, the students will share their experiences through ongoing school presentations and a week-long Water Week, focusing on the need for drinkable water throughout the world.

“In Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, part of the city gets water one day, and the other part gets it the next day. The local school helps students by having water for washing, which is essential and sacred in Ethiopia,” explained John Dols, Holy Family’s assistant principal and campus minister.

A different problem

Even when water is available, it can have ecological implications.

“The people drink bottled water, and this causes a lot of pollution, especially since they don’t have recycling disposal,” said senior Annie Richelsen, who was on the trip.

After the Holy Family students experienced the effects of poor drinking water and limited access to water for hygienic purposes, ideas began to flow, and Water Week began to take shape.

“We want to highlight the quote, ‘Water is life. Sanitation is dignity,’” said senior Emily Kirsch.

During Water Week — still to be scheduled — students hope to educate their peers and raise funds through the sale of T-shirts and refillable, eco-friendly water bottles. Proceeds will be divided between Holy Family’s twin Ethiopian schools, Besrate Gabriel School and St. John Baptist de la Salle School.

Funds also will be used toward the purchase of a specialized water fountain at Holy Family that would enable students to refill water bottles and keep track of how many plastic bottles were “saved” in the process.

“The week is supposed to heighten awareness about clean water in other countries and encourage sensible use of water here at home,” said Aly Anton, a 2013 graduate of the school.

Not just water

The service trip included a six-day visit to Addis Ababa’s St. John Baptist de la Salle School, which is affiliated with the Christian Brothers and Sisters of Charity. The students also toured Sisters of Charity homes for children with HIV/AIDS and taught math and English to students at Besrate.

Clean water wasn’t the only idea channeling through the students’ minds.

“We spent the last night in Dire Dawa reflecting outside while watching the full moon,” Dols recalled. “One of the things we discussed was that now, after several weeks, we are intricately connected to a people a world away. When we want to feel close, we can simply look up at night and realize that we all see the same moon. We are a world away, and we are next door.”

To see more about the students’ trip to Ethiopia, visit “Ethiopia Trip Blog” at http://www.hfchs.org.

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Category: Local News