Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans are set to party, but there is a back story to ‘Mardi Gras’ which often gets lost in the sequins and revelry.
Just like Easter and Christmas, there is a reason for the season.
Fat Tuesday’, as translated from the French, is the precursor to Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season and its rituals of fasting and forsaking.
Whilst new generations of school kids might not connect the dots between pancakes on the Tuesday and eating fish on Fridays, they still achieve the hoped for spiritual growth intended by Lent through their involvement in Project Compassion.
For near on five decades Caritas Australia’s Project Compassion has acted as a conduit between Australia and the poor and most vulnerable in the majority of the world.
Caritas Australia provides both aid and development funds to locally sourced partners and programs, all of them philosophically grounded in the “teach a person to fish; feed them for a lifetime” principle.
Caritas Australia, for whom Project Compassion is the major yearly appeal, sees no end to the inventiveness and creativity of school students fundraising on behalf of their brothers and sisters overseas.
In 2011 Project Compassion in Brisbane raised $1.063 million of which nearly $350 000 was raised by students in Catholic Schools, beating their previous tally by some $30,000. This was no mean feat considering both schools and parishes also raised flood relief funds for the Brisbane and Ipswich areas.
Anyone who might despair for the future of this country in the hands of its youth would do well to witness how selfless and pro-active these schoolchildren are.
From prep through to year 12 students are out there trekking, walking or cycling; hosting fashion shows, theatre events, free-clothes school days, or best of all for hirsute teachers, auctioning off overdue haircuts and facial trims.
The number of fundraising variants developing the concept of solidarity with the people, whose stories the students hear about from so many different parts around the globe, is unlimited.
Places like Bangladesh, Peru, Malawi, East Timor, Thailand and Burma.
These are all countries far removed from the jet set itinerary yet not far enough to be forgotten by our young people.
Whilst people overseas walk miles for a pail of semi-clean water and a pump could make all the difference, or the provision of safe mothering kits allows women to hygienically tie off the umbilical cord and lift mortality rates, these kids feel the connection and make the call to action to get on with the job.
It helps displace the feeling of distance and separation, or that change can only be affected by the rich and powerful. Our students listen and learn and know that they need to be aware of people other than themselves.
So join these young people and give up in order to give.
As you’re forsaking another coffee or a beer this Lent, don’t be inclined to grizzle as you tip some coins into the Project Compassion collection box.
It’s making people better people, both at home and abroad.
Learn more on Project Compassion at www.caritas.org.au
Released by the Catholic Communications Office
February 17, 2012