Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 29, 1999
CCODP helps kids see how kids are the same the world over
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Some Peruvian children may play dress-up with homemade cloth dolls sewn together from leftover rags. They may head to city streets to make a few pennies from casual labour rather than catch a bus to school. They may wear thin-soled shoes which they outgrew last year instead of new Nike Air Jordans.
But that's not what Betty Farrell and Sister Mabel St. Louis want school children here to notice when they see pictures of their Peruvian counterparts.
"We show pictures and a video which depict the conditions in Peru," said St. Louis, who spent nine years working in Peru. "Instead of asking what they see are the differences, I ask what they see is similar. One child said 'The smile on their faces.'
"We want to show how children are the same in any part of the world."
Each year Farrell and St. Louis present an eye-opening presentation on the living conditions of Peruvian children as part of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace's Share Lent campaign.
"We show the games that (Peruvian) children play and the kids here recognize them as the same games they play," St. Louis said. "The message for them is that whatever we do, we are linked with others around the globe."
Each presentation begins with a Spanish song. It is followed by pictures and artifacts from Peru, aimed to give students a visual and hands-on understanding of Peruvian culture.
"We show them the pluses and the minuses," said Farrell, a 20-year CCODP volunteer. "What I try to bring out is the fact that these parents love their children very much and try to give them as much as they can, like parents here.
"The sad thing about Peru is that as hard as the parents work, some of these kids have to go out to work in the streets to help out."
As much as the visuals of living conditions in Peru may draw sorrowful sighs from Westerners, neither Farrell or St. Louis play on the sympathy factor.
Simone Doucette, a teacher at Edmonton's St. Stanislaus School, also tries to avoid taking that approach with her students.
"There's more of a kinship, rather than looking at it as helping those poor Peruvian kids," said Doucette, who organized the presentation at the school in February. "It's not saying 'Let's raise pennies for the poor little kids who have so little.'
"We are hoping there's a little bit of an awakening for social justice. . . . They see there's a need to share with others."
The presentation is a means to introduce students to a way of life they would otherwise not experience.
"If they are not encouraged to look beyond their own environment, they become quite confused when they see things like this and wonder why it's happening," Farrell said.
St. Louis added, "I think today, we live in a global village and the more we realize that and understand it, with the basis of our Christian faith, we can reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
"We all have the same God and our interest in one another connects us."
But neither faith nor religion play a core role in the presentations. Gone are the days where raising money for the less fortunate also meant raising the guilt level.
Educated and raised in a Catholic environment, St. Louis refers to her early years as a "holy childhood" where she and her classmates were encouraged to donate money to organizations to help save children who were not baptized and would not go to heaven when they died.
"That has all changed, thank goodness," St. Louis said. "This is a more holistic presentation where we don't focus on religion but on children as children in need, . . . children who work rather than being in school."
The students at St. Stanislaus are spreading this awareness throughout the school via a Pennies for Peru campaign. They have donated more than 23 kg of pennies so far.
"A lot of people won't pick up pennies they drop on the street," Doucette said." Kids won't even do it. This (campaign) makes them realize that putting those pennies together will make a big difference.
"I like it that it's called Pennies for Peru, it's centred on Peru. We're not raising money for all the Third World countries, just focusing and making a difference in one."
From kindergarten to sixth grade, Farrell said the presentation always brings out the inquisitive nature of the students.
"We get a lot of why questions," Farrell said. "Why can't they go to Costco and get their food . . . why can't they go to school . . . why do they live like that?"
Other questions are more judgmental.
"Some ask me, why they can't get their act together?" St. Louis said. "Why they can't be like us? I try to link some of the conditions to Canada and say some of these things can easily take place in Canada and sometimes do, but it isn't as apparent here."
Although not every student will leave the presentation with a sudden change of heart and immediate need to change Third World conditions, the presentation will have created some awareness.
"I think it's a preparation, every step you take, every time you hear something, it stays with you," Farrell said. "The kids will build on this."
St. Louis added, "As they get older they will be able to put it together more and be able to ask better questions about it. Anything that lets them talk about people from other countries is beneficial at any age level."