By Beth Donze, Clarion Herald
Last year, when they were St. Dominic fifth graders, twin sisters Lily and Lulu Centola asked their classmates to make treats for a recess bake sale, raising more than $100.
Around the same time, St. Dominic fourth grader Lucy Quintana brought in $400 from lemonade sales.
While fundraisers such as these are typical of elementary school life, what the money was used for was quite unusual: the purchase of 120 goats for 60 families in St. Dominic’s twin parish of Mont Carmel, a rural church and school located in Haiti’s mountainous southern peninsula.
To maximize the impact of the goat program, administered by Food for the Poor, the Mont Carmel families were given two goats each – a male and a female – with a promise to give two of the resulting offspring back to their parish. Families “pay” for their goats by helping Mont Carmel with church-related needs.
“I liked how we got to give to people our age. We’re so similar to them,” said Lulu, now a St. Dominic sixth grader, noting that she and her two sisters, including 6-year-old Violet, also gave chunks of their weekly allowance to the cause. “We want kids in Haiti to have all the opportunities that we have. I feel like I would definitely be excited to get a goat!”
In Haiti, goats primarily are used for meat, farming and hauling goods to market. Because most Haitian homes lack refrigeration, milk and cheese are not part of the food culture.
During the year, the families will breed their goats, keeping the surplus offspring for themselves or selling them in the market.
“These goats are a valuable commodity to a family, valued at $50 to $120 U.S. dollars,” noted Mark Ripple, who leads St. Dominic’s Haiti partnership. “Given that daily wages in Haiti are roughly $2, goats can be equivalent to a month’s wages,” Ripple added.
St. Dominic pre-K4 interventionist Colleen Clement, who serves as a school liaison to the Haiti partnership with art teacher Claudia Nelson and technology resource teacher Mary Ripple, said she marvels at her students’ acts of selflessness. The prayer table in each classroom has a “Haiti Corner” with photos of Mont Carmel families. Students pray for their Haitian peers during religion class and at weekly school Masses.
“We wanted to make sure parents knew that we were not just asking them to give their children a $20 bill or a $5 bill (to give to Haiti),” Clement said. “We wanted the kids to earn it.”
To help students visualize their progress, Nelson made a watercolor painting of a goat every time a class raised another $90 to buy a goat and pinned it to the main bulletin board.
“They brought in pennies, quarters, everything,” Clement said.
Previous schoolwide fundraisers for Haiti have included “Raise the Roof” (for the purchase of roofing materials for Mont Carmel Church; construction was provided by Mont Carmel families); and launching a hot lunch program at Mont Carmel’s school, which raised enrollment to more than 300 students.
While the target of this year’s fundraising effort is still up in the air, the committee has narrowed it down to new textbooks, building a parish bread oven, or both.
Lucy, now in fifth grade, already has decided to dedicate a portion of her income selling handmade soap to this year’s Haiti endeavor.
“When I saw the videos (on Haiti), I just keep thinking that these kids sometimes don’t get anything to eat,” Lucy said. “It makes you really sad when you see them playing soccer (by kicking) water bottles.”
Beth Donze can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.