On a freezing cold morning in Bardstown, Ky., children and families from St. Joseph School and the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral helped to pack hundreds of desks, chairs and school supplies into a shipping container destined for Pueblo Modelo, Guatemala, more than 2,600 miles away.
The project started about a year ago when St. Joseph School purchased new desks and chairs, said Lauren Nolan, who serves as the director of youth and young adult formation at the parish. She realized that the furniture the school was getting rid of was in good condition.
“I didn’t want them to go to waste,” she said in a recent interview. She started inquiring about how and where to donate the items.
As she did so, the saw the potential for a learning opportunity, too.
“I want to be intentional,” she said, noting that she hopes the children and families learn about people in Pueblo Modelo. “I want them to know there’s a lot each group can learn from each other.”
St. Joseph found that opportunity with Hearts In Motion, a U.S. nonprofit whose mission is to help improve the health, education and welfare of the individuals they serve in the U.S. and Central and South America, according to the organization.
Local Catholic Aaron Frazita serves as mission trip director for Hearts In Motion. He has traveled to Pueblo Modelo, a town outside the state of Zacapa in eastern Guatemala, and knew the desks and chairs would be put to good use. The town was founded in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch displaced thousands of individuals, he said.
As volunteers loaded the container March 18, they were joined by Hearts In Motion’s founder and executive director Karen Scheeringa-Parra. Father Jacob Zulu, associate pastor of the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral, blessed the group and the items to be shipped.
The shipping container includes about 400 desks and chairs, which will be distributed to half a dozen or so schools in the area, including a preschool.
The project was a parish-wide effort, too, Nolan said. Children who attend the school and those who belong to the church collected school supplies. They also worked together to raise close to $15,000 to pay for shipping expenses, she said. The parish’s men’s group hosted a cookout and school children raised funds during a dress-down day.
Other groups also pitched in to help bring the project to fruition, she said. St. Xavier High School in Louisville donated desks and several parishes helped to transport them to Bardstown.
“It has been a wonderful partnership throughout the archdiocese,” Nolan said.
Nolan added that she hopes the faith community keeps learning and engaging in service locally and internationally. With this in mind, she invited Frazita — a longtime youth minister in the Archdiocese of Louisville — to speak to families about the importance of service and how they can continue to give back.
“This is not a closing of a project but a sending off” with an opportunity to “learn about what they can do moving forward,” Nolan said.