The St Maximilian Kolbe Parish Youth Group in Marsden, Brisbane is famous for its annual winter sleep-out fundraiser, but when COVID-19 restrictions meant it couldn’t go ahead this year, the young people, and the whole parish, decided to put their walking shoes on for mission instead.
The youth group came up with the idea of holding a We Are the World Winter Appeal, which aimed to raise funds for people in India who are struggling to provide the necessities because of the impact of the pandemic.
Parish Priest, Fr Sunil Paul Nagothu SVD, who was born in India, said the parish council and parishioners immediately got on board with the youth group’s fundraising effort which brings to life St Mary MacKillop's saying to "Never see a need without doing something about it".
“We’re also celebrating 40 years of our parish this October, so this initiative from our youth will help us to celebrate our anniversary and also fulfil one of the aims of the Plenary Council, which is to be a Christ-centred and missionary parish,” he says.
The appeal involved a walk-a-thon, where the youth group and parishioners were sponsored to walk 50km over the month of July.
Youth Group spokesperson Diana Faaitete says the walk-a-thon was the perfect way to raise money while social distancing, with participants able to complete their 50km wherever and whenever they preferred.
“Whilst researching countries in need, India had the highest number of new cases in a day, with locals saying the numbers are far worse than what the media was portraying,” she says.
“As this was truly an indication of how the absence of resources greatly affected the success rates in India, it only felt right to share our blessings with them.
“Although it was tiring, it was also a great time to reflect on how blessed we are to live in a first world country. It empowered us spiritually, as it allowed us to be more Christ-like and give to our neighbours in need as Jesus did on numerous occasions throughout the Bible.”
Youth group member Agnalizz Taupau says the winter appeal was a great way for the parish to get moving whilst also raising funds for those in need.
“I am so blessed to live in a country where every store in the mall has hand sanitiser readily available, so it truly breaks my heart to know that those less fortunate than us don’t have the bare necessities to help fight off this pandemic,” she says.
So far, the We Are The World Winter Appeal has raised a total of about $7000, including a generous donation of $1500 from the Presentation Sisters.
The funds will be split between two charitable organisations who serve young children and people in need.
One of the organisations, Vikas Deepti, is based in rural India and cares for 200 children with disability who are from poor families. They also support the education of 40 children of people with leprosy.
“The funds we have donated will be used to provide masks for all these children along with medicine and food packages,” Diana says.
“These funds will also assist with the children’s education by providing them with stationery, school uniforms and school bags.”
The second organisation to be supported through the fundraiser is a hospital in Hyderabad, India, run by the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, who care for the poorest of the poor. Australian medical missionary and Servant of God Mary Glowrey was a member of this congregation.
The Sisters have been serving patients and providing groceries for the needy throughout the pandemic.
“The funds we have donated will be used to provide the Sisters and nurses with Personal Protective Equipment as they work selflessly to serve patients affected by COVID, and also to provide groceries and sanitisers for 200 migrants.”
Sr Mukta Xess, Provincial of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in India says they feel “blessed” to have the support of the St Maximilian Kolbe parish community and they would distribute the goods at the earliest opportunity.
“We come with grateful hearts to express our deepest gratitude for your contribution towards the COVID-19, serving nurses and deprived citizens by the sacrifices made through (your fundraising),” she wrote in a letter.
TOP RIGHT: St Maximilian Kolbe Parish Youth Group members Desiree Masaga, Maryanna Leniu and Diana Faaitete put their best foot forward for the We Are the World Winter Appeal, which raised about $7000 for people in India who are suffering during the pandemic.
MIDDLE LEFT: Personal Protective Equipment, bought with the funds raised by the St Maximilian Kolbe parish initiative, is handed over to nurses and health staff at St Theresa's Hospital, Sanathnagar, Hyderabad.
MIDDLE RIGHT: Distribution of groceries to slum-dwellers in Sanathnagar, Hyderabad.
BOTTOM LEFT: Fr Anuranjan Dungdung SVD, director of Vikas Deepti, (far right) with children who received education packs paid for with money from the Maximilian Kolbe parish.