Article Published

Article_Children ‘walk for water’ in Africa

School News | Friday, May 20, 2016

Children ‘walk for water’ in Africa

St. Theresa School project raises $50,000 for fresh water pumping station in Kasai

Eleonora Cacchiore, parent of students in fouth, second and kindergarten at St. Theresa School, walks while carrying a water pail alongside Carmelite Sister Emma Luz.

Photographer: MONICA LAUZURIQUE | FC

Eleonora Cacchiore, parent of students in fouth, second and kindergarten at St. Theresa School, walks while carrying a water pail alongside Carmelite Sister Emma Luz.

CORAL GABLES | Over 800 children, parents and supporters cheerfully lapped the track at St. Theresa School, recently, holding orange buckets on their heads.

They walked in solidarity with children of Kasai-Oriental in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who arise at 4 a.m. to trek five miles to collect and lug home buckets of dirty water that they need to survive. Later they head to school, both sweaty and tired.

The Hope for Kasai foundation sponsored the festive Walk for Water at St. Theresa in April. The event raised $53,493 to build a water system for the Kasai village of Mpiana, where residents live in mud shacks with no electricity.

Ana Lucia Rincon, whose three children attended St. Theresa, founded the nonprofit in 2010 in partnership with a Kasai priest, Father Theodore Kanyiki Ilunga, whom she met on a European Marian pilgrimage. The all-volunteer force has charged ahead ever since.

Daniel Roads, 5, a pre-k4 student at St. Theresa School, carries buckets of water during the fundraising event at the school.

Photographer: MONICA LAUZURIQUE | FC

Daniel Roads, 5, a pre-k4 student at St. Theresa School, carries buckets of water during the fundraising event at the school.

St. Theresa first grader Sofia Castillo hauls large water bottles through the obstacle course at the Walk for Water fundraising event.

Photographer: MONICA LAUZURIQUE | FC

St. Theresa first grader Sofia Castillo hauls large water bottles through the obstacle course at the Walk for Water fundraising event.

From left: St. Theresa School fourth-graders John Thorsell-Pantin and Massino Napolitano overcome an obstacle during the Walk for Water for Kazai.

Photographer: MONICA LAUZURIQUE | FC

From left: St. Theresa School fourth-graders John Thorsell-Pantin and Massino Napolitano overcome an obstacle during the Walk for Water for Kazai.

“It is powerful for our foundation. I feel today I really started with the community of Miami. This is the first big event. It is very emotional to see kids with buckets,” said Rincon. “Water is key for health and survival, for the population to be able to grow and to flourish.”

A DJ pumped up participants donning Kasai T-shirts and bracelets with music ranging from “Let’s Get It Started” to African praise songs such as “Where You Lead Lord” from Kasai’s parish choir.

After a jumping-jack warm-up, St. Theresa’s principal, Carmelite Sister Caridad Sandoval, happily reported that the event had already raised $48,657. “Our goal was $50,000, so boys and girls we are almost there!”

Obstacle courses 

Youngsters then hit the school’s manicured grounds, now filled with obstacle courses, to complete the requisite four laps.

Fifth grader Giselle Linares joyfully tackled the big kids’ obstacle course that included weight lifting, sprinting and push-ups. But she got a little nostalgic eyeing the younger tikes’ rainbow hoops, crawl tunnel and wagon.

“I wished I could do the little one — it looked so fun!” she said. “I did walk with a bucket with six (water) bottles thinking this is hard so I felt bad for people in Kasai. They have to do it every day. It hurt. Imagine you are running from a lion with water, carrying it for four hours.”

Added friend Natalie Gonzalez, “We had to walk five steps to get water and they have to walk five miles.”

Natalie’s dad, Antonio Gonzalez, said his daughters arrived with him at 5:45 a.m. to set up. “One hope of what they learn is to give to somebody else. That’s the beauty,” he said. “The next time I want to have the kids involved in planning on the committee… They inspire their friends.”

His daughter Isabella might suggest a bigger challenge next time, as the course was no sweat for the sporty 8-year-old.

“I thought it was going to be hard at first but then it was easy,” she said. “When I carried the bucket I liked it because I was helping the children and they do it every day. If we do this they don’t have to walk miles any more.”

'Something meaningful'

Rincon, a native of Colombia, had been praying for “something meaningful to give my energy to” when she met Father Ilunga and learned of Kasai-Oriental, a remote, hot and dry province in central Congo, a nation where life expectancy is 57. The area is safe and stable but neglected by the central government.

She learned how villagers use the murky, insect-laden water pools for everything. About half suffer various water born illnesses. “He was praying for someone to help him. He was talking about Kasai and how kids go to school and I said I want to help you. Our family wanted to get involved immediately.”

Money raised will fund construction of a system to pump fresh water from the nearest spring eight miles away. An underground storage tank will be built in Mpiana and a truck with a cistern will be purchased to transport water from the spring.

The nonprofit also funded a maternity ward as there’s no health clinic in the area. St. Theresa has also collected school supplies, sent dresses and sport shorts for the over 800 students in Mpiana. Fourth grade classes now sponsor three children where $30 monthly funds food and education.

“Children need awareness of the value of pencils, water, and awareness that people on the other side of the world don’t have what you have and you can help them even if you can’t go to Kasai,” said Rincon, who will make her fifth trip to Congo this summer. “When they get a pencil from the priest they treat it as a treasure. That has helped children increase their education level because when we started they were reaching an average of about 25 percent of education goals. This year they reached 89 percent of goals because they received pencils, paper, sharpeners, erasers.”

Other schools join in

Other Miami supporters of the project include Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, where Rincon’s daughters attend, Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, Gulliver Preparatory School and Sunset Elementary.

Belen eighth grader Joshua Cecol and 10 classmates assisted with registration. “It’s nice that we’re helping people in an active way and not being self-centered. It’s really good for living our faith. I didn’t know this many people would come.”

St. Theresa fifth grader Emily Anderson also found spiritual refreshment.

“My faith teaches me how to live,” she said. “I thought this would be a better way of learning how to be a better person. I would like to keep on doing these things with others kids so one day they can do what we do, get up and get a cup of water.”

The habit-clad Sister Caridad walked four laps as well and was pleased to see so many youngsters contribute.

“This fund raising was different. Children were very involved, very interested. We had to not only register online but also bring in piggy banks,” she said. “One kindergarten teacher said one kid brought in 100 pennies in a Ziploc.”

“It’s the mystery of the Church at its best,” said Father Michael Davis, pastor of the school’s parish, Little Flower. “People concerned for others and their welfare for something as foundational as fresh water.”

“It’s an incredibly important and essential human right, a basic human need,” he added, noting that “this is as big a turnout as our carnival.”

“I’m very emotional with how the people have gotten involved, the feeling of solidarity and generosity,” said Father Ilunga. “I go with good memories of the school. During daily Mass we say prayers for St. Theresa. Thanks to St. Theresa.”

 For information visit hopeforkasai.com.

Simon Degano jumps through the pre-school obstacles as Eleonora Barlaro looks on.

Photographer: MONICA LAUZURIQUE | FC

Simon Degano jumps through the pre-school obstacles as Eleonora Barlaro looks on.


Powered by Parish Mate | E-system

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply