Walking the Extra Mile in Mercy

MERCY LIGHT: LEADING

On any given night in South Australia, approximately 7,000 people are experiencing homelessness. National Homelessness Week, which was this year marked from August 7 to August 13, is an annual event to raise awareness of the issue and advocate for solutions to minimise it.

On Friday 11 August, more than 70 students from St Aloysius College volunteered their time before school and during lunch hour to participate in two important National Homelessness Week events. The first event saw students brave a cold, early start on Wakefield Street to walk two miles before school, to The Hutt St Centre and back to SAC again, as a part of The Centre’s Walk A Mile In My Boots fundraising event.

Later that day, a group of students attended Homelessness SA’s memorial service at Tarntanyangga (Victoria Square) to acknowledge the lives of South Australians who have died while experiencing homelessness.

One student who went the extra mile to show her support during National Homelessness Week is Mariana Mangos in Year 5, who heard about the Walk A Mile In My Boots campaign at school.  

“I wanted to Walk A Mile because I wanted to help people less fortunate than me. I knew that many homeless people don’t have money for food, clothing and a house to live in. I really wanted to make a difference and show love and kindness to them,” Mariana explained.

“When I heard about Walk A Mile, I asked Mum to help me start a fundraising page on The Hutt St Centre website. I told my family and friends and spoke to my school teacher to ask if they could support me by donating to my fundraising page.”

Within 24 hours, Mariana’s fundraising tally had climbed to $2,000, so Mariana increased her goal amount to $3,000. When even that amount was reached, Mariana increased it once more, to $4,000. In less than one week, Mariana raised a total of $4,102 – four times her initial fundraising goal! These funds will contribute to the life-changing work achieved by The Hutt St Centre in supporting South Australians.

In thanks for her inspiring donation, Mariana was invited to participate in The Final Mile event with fellow fundraisers, Hutt St Centre staff and volunteers, media and politicians. Mariana was praised by South Australian Premier, Peter Malinauskas, whom she met. But despite the public accolades she received, it was the private support of her loved ones and the SAC community that brought her the greatest joy.

“I felt really happy and excited to see so many people donating as it showed me that other people care about the homeless and wanted to help too. They were making a difference too, which made me even more happy. I think we should all want to help the homeless and it doesn’t matter how old you are. If you really want to make a difference, you can. I think that homeless people can be young people too, so we should care about them. If we help homeless people when we are young, we can inspire other young people to help too.”

Mariana demonstrates insight beyond her 10 years, and this isn’t the first time she has exceeded expectations to be of service to others. Last year, Mariana collected 10,000 bread tags for Aussie Bread Tags for Wheelchairs, and for many years, with her family, has been supporting organisations in Madagascar, Eastern Uganda, Tanzania and Sierra Leone.

What is it that sustains this bright, young changemaker?

“I know I can do this with God’s help because He wants us to help the poor and with God, all things are possible,” Mariana says.

In celebration of her efforts, Mariana was gifted a copy of The School That Hope Built, about The School of St Jude in Tanzania. The book tells the remarkable story of its visionary Founder, Gemma Sisia, who, by courageously pursuing a dream to educate the poor and armed with faith, created avenues for thousands of others to make a difference too.

It is the same spirit of radical empathy that drove Mercy Foundress, Catherine McAuley, in whose footsteps SAC students are walking today, and the words of American Anthropologist, Margaret Mead, ring true: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Ms Maddie Kelly
JAM Coordinator

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