SOUTH OZONE PARK — “Kind bars” have another meaning at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Academy, South Ozone Park, where students donate money they get from selling snacks to kids in need in South Africa.
“A lot of kids don’t really have the basic necessities or privileges that other kids in more developed countries get, so I think it’s very important to help them,” eighth-grader Marco Goncalves said. “Giving back makes me feel good in general. The Catholic faith teaches us to always help the poor and always help the needy, so I think that’s a very big part of it.”
OLPH students donate through Koinonia John the Baptist, an organization that sends funds and goods to needy communities around the globe. The school’s donations are routed through Koinonia’s Lourdes Mission, which is named after Our Lady of Lourdes.
Seventh-grader Shane Bridgepaul and a few of his classmates give a portion of their earnings from selling snacks to kids at lunchtime. “We use that money to buy more snacks to sell, and we donate that money to give back to the Lourdes Mission,” Shane, 12, said.
“I feel generous by giving some of that money for these kids, so that they could have a better life,” said seventh-grader Justin Jaikaran, 12.
“It makes me so proud of them, as their teacher, to see them living out and practicing their Catholic values, and being aware of what’s going on in the world,” said Bernadette Keaney, the seventh-grade teacher.
Frances De Luca, the principal at OLPH and a third order lay member of Koinonia John the Baptist, said, “The most important thing is that children know it isn’t just monetary assistance — this is a real human being on the other side of the world, someone they get to care and pray for, with a specific need.”
Each grade is assigned a South African child to pray for and sponsor. Many of the “adopted” Koinonia children are orphans or are living in poverty. Each grade at OLPH sticks with the same assigned child in order to “grow” with them — even from across the world.
During the school year, each grade collects up to $100 for one child. That pays for food, medical care, school uniforms and proper bedding.
This school year, OLPH is sponsoring 21 South African children. Their photos and stories line the hallways of the school and hang in each classroom, along with a collection jar.
“As children of God, we’re all responsible to love each other the way our Lord loved us,” De Luca said. “Our No. 1 responsibility is to pray for each other, and the other part is that there’s a real financial help you can give to someone else. And this love carries out to people we don’t even know.”