Our strength is in unity, was the message of the Ash Wednesday launch event at St Paul’s College, Greystanes, for this year’s Project Compassion campaign.
More than 800 students gathered at the main school hall for the Ash Wednesdsay Mass celebrated by Fr Paul Marshall, parish priest of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Greystanes.
The students were reminded of the ancient symbolism of placing ashes on the forehead as a representation of mourning over our human weaknesses as well as of the hope of Easter.
Caroline Preston, Caritas Australia’s Head of International Programs, shared the story of Phany, a marginalised woman from Cambodia.
Phany, 27, lives in a village in western Cambodia. Struggling to earn a living as a rice farmer, her family experienced food scarcity and she was forced to leave her young daughter behind to take up construction work in the city. In Cambodia, where one in eight people live below the poverty line, the search for work can often separate families.
In 2016, Phany joined the Upholding Community Dignity Together program, run by Caritas Australia, in partnership with the Environment Protection and Development Organisation (EPDO). Phany learnt new farming techniques, such as a drip irrigation system, which enabled her to reap a better yield from her vegetable crops. Now she is financially independent and can live with her daughter and provide for her education, without having to work many kilometres away in Phnom Penh.
“There was a really wonderful atmosphere at the College and the students seemed very respectful of and interested in this story and it reminded me that we can go further together,” Mrs Preston said.
For Ranbir, a year seven student at St Paul’s Catholic College, Greystanes, Project Compassion affords an opportunity to do something to help marginalised people.
“I’d like to help Caritas Australia by donating my vintage coins that I’ve been collecting and giving the money to Caritas Australia to help people around the world,” Ranbir said.
“I don’t want people to miss out on their educations. People should help other people. We’re all human beings in the end and if we don’t help each other, who will?”
After the liturgy, the students participated in interactive activities, including a water race, where they ran with full buckets, as a representation of the many kilometres which women and girls in impoverished communities must travel every day, merely to gather enough water to drink. March 22nd is UN World Water Day, an annual observance which marks the importance of freshwater to global communities.
To donate to Project Compassion or to learn how to host a Caritas fundraiser like a Water Challenge like a Fish Friday or visit Caritas Australia’s website, www.caritas.org.au/projectcompassion or call 1800 024 413.
With thanks to Caritas.