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Local school children provide help for counterparts in Peru

| Wednesday, May 5, 2004

The poor in Chimbote, Peru, are being helped by children who attend Madonna Catholic Regional schools in Donora and Monongahela.

Their gift of almost $2,000 this year came mostly from personal sacrifices the students made to understand better the difference between those who have and those who have not.

"The poorest of the poor here have more than those in Chimbote," said Principal Sharon Brown, explaining how the children are being taught to share in their blessings.

The project to help the poor of Chimbote, instituted by Pittsburgh Diocese Bishop Donald Wuerl, has been ongoing for the past 10 years.

Last year Madonna Regional students donated $1,635.64 to the cause.

They have become familiar with the project through a missionary who visited here and now keeps in touch with them from Chimbote, and also because Pittsburgh television newsman Mike Clark has visited the site and made a documentary on Chimbote.

Missionary Brian Wolford visited both the Donora and Monongahela school sites before leaving for Chimbote.

"He spoke to the students about the great need for help there and prayed with them," Brown said. "He sends e-mails and these are discussed during morning prayers before classes begin."

Clark, reporting on his experience in Chimbote, said God changed his life after that.

He has loaned the school a video he made on the subject and has promised to make a personal visit to discuss his experience further.

"We don't just ask for money," the principal explained the children's sacrifices.

In the Middle School the children gave dimes and quarters based on the luxuries they experience in their homes, as compared to the Chimbote children who have very little.

For example, they gave 10-cents for each pair of shoes they have and 25-cents if they have a clothes dryer in their home.

The biggest donations, 50-cents, were asked if "their roof doesn't leak."

Each contribution related to some privilege the children have here that Chimbote children do not have.

Students became more involved by decorating empty cartons and cans from their homes to be used as banks. The banks were collected during a Chimbote prayer service.

The younger children, in Monongahela's school, showed their concern by adding a fake brick to the cafeteria wall for money they earned by doing chores.

The entire back wall of the room and one-half of the side wall are filled with these bricks.

Wuerl said donations from diocesan children will be "earmarked for the children in Chimbote."

On a larger scale, his project has resulted in a hospital being built in Chimbote.

Brown, who taught in Greensburg and Erie schools before coming to the former Madonna site that was located in Charleroi, is experiencing her first year as principal of the combined parochial schools.

"It's a big change from teaching to being a principal," she said. "But I have adjusted and feel I can be more useful on a larger scale now.

"It's been a great year," she concluded.

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