Nov. 13-19, 2003
Filled with love
By Blessed Sacrament staff/ SUN contributing writers
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Students at Bishop Ludden Jr./Sr. High School prepare gift boxes for Colombian orphans
With Thanksgiving just around the corner people are gearing up for the season of giving. But 15 students at Bishop Ludden Jr./Sr. High School demonstrate that the spirit of giving isn’t just a once-a-year thing. Since September, Sharon Bearer’s Spanish Five class has been collecting monetary and material donations for a group of young girls they have never met and probably never will. The students filled 70 boxes: one for each of the 69 girls who call an orphanage in Colombia home –– and an extra one for good measure. For these children, a Christmas with presents piled under the tree is just as foreign to them as the students who are sending the packages, but the class is hoping to bring some smiles to their faces. “They do not have much. Even for Christmas they don’t really get anything,” said Nate Stevens, a junior in Bearer’s class. “I think they will be happy.”
The fruit of the students’ efforts is obvious from the appearance of Bearer’s classroom, which currently resembles a makeshift toy store. Boxes overflowing with dolls and stuffed animals with their cheerful faces popping out line the walls. According to Bearer, the collection of items and the preparation to send the boxes to Colombia have taken center stage in the classroom for the last several weeks. “Students have been working hard gathering new and used toys, books, games and stuffed animals,” she said. “Anything they collect, even the smallest things, is a big gift to these little girls.”
The class also raised money to pay for shipping the boxes to Colombia. At $2 a pound, with approximately 200 pounds worth of gifts, this was no small feat. They collected over $500 from their peers, many of whom passed on treating themselves to a lunchtime snack or set aside a portion of allowance money to make a donation. Generous people in the community who heard of the project also gave, noted Bearer. “It was very heartwarming,” she said. “One family sent us a $100 check. Couples who have no children in the school made donations.” The gift boxes, which will be shipped on Nov. 15, are a continuation of a project sparked last year by Oscar Vergara, Varsity Boy’s Soccer Coach and director of Big Brother/Big Sister at Bishop Ludden. Last year Vergara, a ’72 alumni of Bishop Ludden, visited the orphanage –– formerly his old school –– during a trip to Colombia.
Touring the orphanage, Vergara was reminded of how fortunate he is. “I have seen what it is like to have plenty and I have seen what it is like to have nothing. The mattresses these girls were sleeping on were no thicker than a piece of cardboard,” he said. “You could be the coldest person on earth, but when you see these kids it changes you.” After learning of the conditions at the orphanage, Bearer’s students (who then were in her Spanish Four class) responded to the call. “As a Catholic school we have to carry the message of caring and compassion to the community,” said Bearer. The class embraced the girls and decided to send them clothes. “These were shirts that the students might not wear anymore, or maybe had a small hole, but to the kids in the orphanage they were brand new,” said Vergara. The students followed up again in the spring and sent the girls stuffed animals and toys.
Included in the shipments to the orphanage have been pictures as well as letters from the students. Bearer believes that communicating with the Spanish-speaking girls helps students to be more proficient in the language. “Learning a language isn’t just about conjugating verbs and building vocabulary. You have to learn how to help people in a meaningful way,” she said. But the students are doing more than becoming fluent in Spanish. According to Vergara, they are learning life lessons. “There is more to life than school and sports. You have to help people; the students get this,” he said. The class has formed a relationship with the children. At the orphanage, pictures of the Ludden students who have touched their young lives hang on the walls. Inside of Bearer’s classroom sits a photo album filled with pictures of the little girls. When the boxes are gone, it will remain as a reminder of how the smallest acts of kindness can be the biggest acts of love. “We are happy to help them,” said Stevens. “It feels good to give.”