Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 17, 2005
Schools dig deep for tsunami victims
Austin O'Brien High devotes day to prayer and fasting
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Having raised hundreds of dollars to assist local families before Christmas, students and staff at Austin O'Brien High School returned from their holidays and set out to help the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami half a world away.
The school stepped into an unprecedented outpouring of global aid for the survivors of the disaster that killed more than 160,000 people and left millions homeless.
AOB students and staff donated $850, part of more than $80,000 raised at Edmonton Catholic Schools' 84 schools as of Jan. 11. Fundraising was to continue through the rest of the week.
Ken Brack, chaplain of AOB, spearheaded the effort to not only collect money at the school, but to raise awareness among the students that others their own age are in a desperate struggle to survive.
He also used the moment to teach them about the power of prayer.
"For a school our size, I think ($850 is) pretty good, especially on such short notice," Brack said. "We had a modified menu (fasting) in the cafeteria to raise awareness of the suffering and starvation occurring in southern Asia at the moment. We want the students to be in solidarity with the tsunami victims, in spirit and prayer."
AOB had prepared Christmas hampers for several families in conjunction with St. Francis of Assisi Parish. Each classroom was in charge of caring for one family. More than $750 was collected and used as gift certificates in the hampers.
When Edmonton Catholic Schools returned from holidays, each school was asked to regard Jan. 3-7 as a week of prayer for those who are struggling to stay alive, for those who died, for those who grieve for the dead, for the caregivers of the world and for the concerns of the local community.
Jan. 10 was a day of prayer and fasting.
"We want the students to understand the power of prayer," Brack said. "Does praying make a difference? Yes it does. What the people in southern Asia will need, over the long run, is a way to deal with the hundreds of thousands of children who have been left homeless. It's a long-term process where money is one thing, but there must be a resource to rebuild the shattered human infrastructure."
"Every little bit helps," said Grade 11 student Jay Peden, who spoke to the WCR during his religion class. "I think they need a helping hand in whatever form it might be. We should help however we can," he said.
Classmate Tegin Smith wondered how anyone could live in the aftermath of such a catastrophe.
"I know two people who were vacationing in Thailand. They were close to the disaster and they had to evacuate," she said. "It would be terrible to lose even one family member or friend. And they lost everything that was around them. I don't know how I would handle it."
The class was told that some schools in Thailand and Sri Lanka have reopened with many desks unoccupied. They were asked to picture themselves being in such a room.
"I don't know what I would do if I went back to school and all of my friends were gone," said Kristine Jerebic. "That would be pretty devastating. I think they need our love."
Amanda Finlay offered her prayers.
"I would make a prayer for their strength, understanding and courage to overcome what they are going through. If I woke up one day and my brother was gone, it would feel like the end of the world," she said.
"If I could speak to someone there, I would say, 'God be with you.'"
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