St. Frances scores in Guatemala

Students improving lives of residents in impoverished country

Josh Rieck, a Grade 8 student at St. Frances School in Delhi, introduced children to road hockey during an aid mission to Guatemala last fall. Rieck headed back to Guatemala Friday to continue his work. His fellow students sent along hundreds of brand new tennis balls to help Rieck spread interest in Canada's favourite game. . MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

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Elementary students can do a lot of fundraising before they reach the senior grades.

At St. Frances School in Delhi, staff keep kids motivated by showing them the results of their good work.

Friday, the Rieck family of Delhi delivered a slide presentation at a student assembly regarding the nearly $1,000 the school raised last year for charitable work in the city of Chimaltenango, Guatemala.

Guatemala is a poor country beset by grinding poverty, so a little goes a long way in this struggling nation.

The Rieck family has a history of hands-on aid in Central America so it was natural for mother Crystal and her children to travel there on behalf of the aid agency Possibilities International last fall.

Josh Rieck, centre, a Grade 8 student at St. Frances School in Delhi, told his fellow students Friday about an aid mission to Central America that he and his family participated in last fall. With Rieck, clockwise from left, are students Alice Matejcek, Stefanie Barnucz and Serenity Wheeler. The three were recognized at the assembly for showing kindness and compassion to their fellow student through the month of February. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

One of their projects involved a Guatemalan woman named Norma. They took Norma under their wing and helped build her a home.

“For $600, we built a house for someone to live in,” Rieck said. “The house was built in five hours. It has a concrete floor, so the next day the family could move in.”

Norma’s husband abandoned her because she is unable to have children. She was forced to move back in with her mother, who is blind, and nine other people living in a cramped shanty with an outdoor kitchen.

Money raised at St. Frances paid for a month’s worth of groceries, which included rice, pasta, beans and shampoo.

Crystal Rieck is following the example of her mother Rose Gass, the former head of emergency services at Norfolk General Hospital. Gass has participated in numerous aid missions to Central America over the years. Her focus has been on medical services.

“People are very poor down there,” Gass said. “They buy their Tylenol one tablet at a time. And nutrition is very poor because they can’t afford good food.”

Crystal Rieck of Delhi, centre, and her family travelled to Guatemala last fall on an aid mission to an impoverished community. She took with her sons John-John, front left, and Matthew, front right. Rieck spoke of her time in Central America during a student assembly at St. Frances School in Delhi Friday. In back are students Dane Golding and Katie McCormick. The pair were recognized at the event for showing kindness and consideration to their fellow students through the month of February. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

Rieck was shocked to discover that – when asked — many of the poorest Guatemalans simply want access to soap.

Rieck spoke of Guatemalans who live and work in garbage dumps. There, they sort through refuse and salvage anything they might possibly sell to buy food.

Many of the poorest, Rieck said, aren’t recognized as citizens and have no rights because they weren’t registered at birth. The only way to break the cycle of poverty and suffering, she said, is to build rudimentary schools and furnish these children with basic literacy skills.

While in Guatemala, Rieck’s young sons introduced Guatemalan children to road hockey. They loved it.

Son Josh Rieck, a Grade 8 student at St. Frances, headed back to Guatemala Saturday for a 10-day visit. In anticipation of his trip, students at St. Frances purchased hundreds of tennis balls to take along to help deepen Guatemalans’ love of Canada’s most popular sport.

Orazio Caltagirone, principal at St. Frances, says teaching students the importance of compassion and charity hopefully cultivates life-long habits in this direction.

“The hope this brings to the community in Guatemala and our community drives who we are and who they are,” Caltagirone said.

“It’s a recognition of human dignity.”

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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