Being ‘too young’ can’t stop your changing the worldchanging world

Catholic Charities Summer Institute taught Catholic youth from all over Arkansas how they can make a difference in their community and the world.

Aug 08, 2014

Payten Furr of St. Agnes Church in Mena sorts donated food during an afternoon of volunteering at Arkansas Foodbank in Little Rock.

Arkansas: Catholic Charities Summer Institute taught Catholic youth from all over Arkansas how they can make a difference in their community and the world.

About 60 high school students gathered at St. John Centre in Little Rock July 7-11 to see what living in poverty was like. During their stay, the youth listened to different speakers talk about homelessness, refugees, immigration and human trafficking. They were also sent out into the community not only to do service but to see for themselves the issues they learned about.

The teens saw what it was like to be homeless in Little Rock, taking a tour with Aaron Redding, founder of the non-profit organization The One.

Also, for two days of the programme, the youth volunteered at various service sites in the Little Rock area. They visited prisoners at the Juvenile Detention Centre, helped with yard work at Our House, a homeless shelter, stocked shelves with food at the Arkansas Food bank Network, and prayed outside the abortion clinic with St. Joseph Helpers. They also went to a new site added to the programme’s itinerary, St. Joseph Farm in North Little Rock, an educational centre assisting with hunger relief in Arkansas and teaching Delta farmers new farming techniques.

The youth quickly realized their stereotypes of poverty were far from the reality.

“Coming into this, I was under the impression that homeless people were a little bit on the lazy side, but now I know that’s not the case,” Andrew Guresky of St. Mary Parish in Hot Springs said. “There are people in situations beyond their control.”

Megan Shaffer of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Hot Springs Village agreed, saying, “We’ve learned a lot about recognizing the homeless and making sure we treat them and everyone we come across more as people.”

In addition to seeing the issues first-hand, the youth learned ways they could help. One of the programme’s speakers was the director of Catholic Charities, Patrick Gallaher, who explained how the teens could be involved. Gallaher encouraged the youth that even though they were young, they had ways to help and would have more as they got older.

“Your participation in delivering charitable services depends on your time, ability and inclinations,” Gallaher said. “Think in the long term. As you get older, you’re going to be able to do more things.”

Another speaker, Joslyn Hebda, a member of Our Lady of Holy Souls Parish in Little Rock and recent graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., told the teens how she had helped despite being young. Hebda worked with refugees in Amman, Jordan, for 10 weeks last summer while interning with Caritas Jordan, a Catholic non-governmental organization. She encouraged the youth to be informed and to find ways to help those in need.

“I know there are plenty of opportunities,” she said. “You don’t have to go across the ocean.”

Teens left the week feeling inspired to be more active. “I want to be more active in my church,” Avanlea Furr of St. Agnes Parish in Mena said. “There’s more (problems) than just hungry people. Other people need help, and I can make sure to find as many ways as possible to help.”

Katy DeVino of Christ the King Parish in Little Rock, said, “We do have the means, even as kids, to help out in the community.” -- Arkansas Catholic

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