GLENDALE — Kaya Bednarczuk, a seventh grader at Sacred Heart Catholic Academy, has never been to the Republic of Ghana, but she has a special connection to that African nation.
Kaya is one of several members of the St. Gabriel Society, a youth group at Sacred Heart Church in Glendale, who raised money for a project to dig a well in the Ghanaian village of Adzonkor to provide fresh water to residents there.
Currently, villagers have to walk 5 miles to the nearest well, fill jugs with water, and then carry the heavy containers back home. They make the trek several times a day.
The youngsters spent six weeks soliciting donations from friends, family, and Sacred Heart parishioners and, in that short span of time, raised $3,890 toward the $6,600 needed. They presented a check to Don Magnotta, who is spearheading the project, at the society’s meeting on May 7.
“It feels good because first, you’re helping a bunch of people who don’t have access to clean water on a daily basis. And second, they really appreciate it,” Kaya said.
Magnotta, founder of International Help of Missionaries (IHM), a nonprofit organization that works to build schools, health centers, and freshwater wells in impoverished countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, and Ghana, has pledged to chip in the other half of the necessary funds.
Construction of the well is expected to be completed next month. It takes approximately six weeks to dig and construct a well. Magnotta promised to send photos and videos of the completed well.
Magnotta has never been to Ghana but works with priests and missionaries in that country to oversee his various projects. “These are mission people that are on the ground and have no help. And they’re in these poor communities. I bring help to them. That’s why I started IHM,” he said.
Magnotta, a parishioner of St. Margaret’s Church in Middle Village, got the idea for the organization back in 2011 when he was listening to a homily by Father Cletus Forson about hardships faced by people in developing nations — including the lack of access to clean water.
Pete Stamm, youth minister at Sacred Heart, heard about the work Magnotta was doing and said he asked him to speak at a St. Gabriel Society meeting in March “because I’ve been looking to get our kids active in the world.”
The youngsters expressed a strong interest in helping out, especially after Magnotta put them through an exercise. He filled a gasoline can with water and had the kids carry it around. At first, the kids found it easy.
“They said, ‘This isn’t so hard.’ But they were walking around the basement of a church. I asked them, ‘Would you like to do it for 4 or 5 miles every day?’ They weren’t so sure about that! It kind of hit home for them,” Stamm said.
Magnotta’s goal with IHM is to bring people closer to faith. “This is life-changing for people. It makes them appreciate the Catholic Church and everything it does for people around the world,” he explained.
The well project has brought Kaya closer to her faith. “I feel like it helps me get closer to God because God always recognizes that you’re doing nice things. I feel like he especially realizes that you’re playing a big part in changing people’s lives,” she said.