The Our Lady of Hungary school community is a working class one, located in a struggling socio-economic neighborhood in South Bend. Teacher Kari Wuszke is aware that for the families of her sixth-grade students, regular employment is difficult to maintain; that they work multiple jobs to make ends meet; and that they often rely on public assistance for medical care.
Our Lady of Hungary students and teachers are sometimes, the recipients of the goodwill, charity and generosity of others, which can arrive in the form of donations such as school supplies or funds for specific needs like equipment or gym clothes. This dynamic may be why the student population has infrequently put into action what they learn in the classroom about offering charity and service to others, Wuszke surmised.
“Many of our families receive help in various ways, but our children have not experienced what it means to give to others who are in need,” she said. “They learn all the time about works of mercy in religion class, but book learning is not the same as applicable learning. Until children see where or to what their donations of clothing or food go, it’s just that, an item of clothing or food. We are trying to instill in our children a sense of them being a part of something more and helping them to understand that what they do to help others is what Jesus taught us to do.”
Beginning this school year, the students are practicing charity on a quarterly basis. For their first project in the fall, they responded to a solicitation from the Christ Child Society of South Bend to provide clothing and stuffed animals.
“We had eighth graders in charge of that particular project, and they collected over 2,100 items and laundered them, loaded them up into a van and a car and drove them, with the teacher and a staff member, over to the Christ Child Society,” said principal Kevin Goralczyk.
The teacher explained to each classroom how the clothing drive was an act of charity and an expression of care for others. When the students delivered the items, they also went behind the scenes to stock shelves and learn how they distribute the items and more about the need filled by the Christ Child Society.
“When they do that, the students understand that ‘I brought this in to help somebody, and this is how it’s going to help – this is how it works.’ So, they get the full-circle kind of thing,” said Goralczyk.
The winter service project began Nov. 29. Sixth graders are leading a schoolwide food drive to benefit a nearby St. Vincent de Paul Society food pantry.
The particular food pantry, located at St. Adalbert Parish, was chosen, Goralczyk said, so that the food not only stays in the southside neighborhood but benefits the families and neighborhoods of St. Adalbert and St. Casimir.
“I think what it does for our students is, it gives them a sense that there are students who are less fortunate than they are living in this community. Our kids seem to respond to that. They think they’re doing something important, which they are.” A donor business is also being sought to match the number of food items collected this fall, or their value.
While the clothing items could be gently used and the food donations could consist of just one or two cans, the message that others could be in even greater need than they are resonated with students.
“It really is a full circle kind of thing. It showed them that we can receive, but we can also give,” said Goralczyk.
“The message we want to share is that we’re a highly Latino student community where most of the parents work very, very hard; but no matter what they do or don’t have, they want to help. The people who usually receive are giving back. That’s something we can all learn a lesson from.”
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.