Mount St Joseph Milperra’s students served food and talent and teachers volunteered to be auctioned as slaves to make their school’s annual social justice initiative, Peru Day, another success.
Each year, the school community has raised up to $18,000 to support the work of the Sisters of St Joseph in Tarma, a village about four hours from Peru’s capital city, Lima.
Past efforts have helped finance a dental surgery, resources for the Fe y Alegria School, and sustainability programs that give local women the skills to generate food and income.
The initiative has run for more than 25 years and follows the example of Sr Irene McCormack, who worked as a missionary in Peru where she was murdered in 1991 by ‘Sendero Luminoso’ guerrillas along with others accused of spreading ‘American ideas’.
The event on November 27 will be the last Peru Day for current Year 12 students including school captain Jayde Dimceski and vice captains Samantha Honeysett and Patricia Busuttil.
“We get together for carnivals but this is such a meaningful project, so I think seeing the whole school spirit and seeing everybody get together is my favourite part,” Jayde said. “The food comes after that.”
Samantha said the event saw her peers strive for justice. “It’s a tradition that we’ve carried on for many years and all of our money is going towards making a difference … as well as following Mary MacKillop in never seeing a need without doing something about it and helping people in need.”
Patricia agreed. “My favourite part of the day is the sense of community,” she said. “Everyone comes together and is very enthusiastic. Everyone is aware of where our money is going to and we enjoy raising money to go towards such a good cause.”
Food stalls, a dunking machine, sumo wrestling and a petting zoo were among the stalls, followed by a talent quest and battle of the bands. A stall with Peruvian goods including bracelets and woven bags was also set up to raise funds for the initiatives in Tarma.
Teacher Amy Kermode visited the Fe y Alegria School in 2012 and saw first-hand the projects that Peru Day funds had contributed to. In 2013, their contribution helped to rebuild the school after it was damaged by a landslide.
“I was really overwhelmed at Tarma itself initially,” Ms Kermode said. “ It’s a very hilly region and the school is right on the top of a hill and overlooks the town.
“The kids love the school such great care of it. We went into the classrooms and worked with the students and practiced our Spanish, which was fun.
“One of the projects they’ve used money we’ve donated to them for is refurbishing parts of the school. They’ve built up retaining walls, so that has made it a bit safer.
“Another thing they’ve used the funds for is their guinea pig project. Guinea pigs are a delicacy there and a food source, so they had a farm to breed and sell them. That has been a very fruitful source of income for the school.”