The students were soon to learn that the real Madagascar is an island off the east coast of Africa, surrounded by water but with little fresh water available for drinking, cooking or sanitation.
When Catholic Mission’s Richard Cootes visited students of St Pius X Primary School, Windale, he told them how difficult life is for many children attending primary school in Madagascar. “At first they were very surprised to learn that schools in other countries had no fresh running water for drinking or cooking and that children often had to walk kilometres to fetch water for home and school,” he said. “Then they were really shocked to learn that this meant they also had no water for washing or flushing toilets!”
In Madagascar, access to clean water for washing, cleaning, cooking and drinking is scarce. With no access to proper sanitation, distressingly, thousands of children across Madagascar die from easily preventable water-borne diseases like diarrhoea every year.
St Pius X Catholic Primary School has only fifty students. With the assistance of dedicated teachers and supportive parents, principal Peter Bowen maintains a welcoming and friendly learning environment for students, parents and community members.
Although Richard hasn’t visited Madagascar, the students were moved by the fact that some of his fellow Catholic Mission workers had recently visited Madagascar. “Richard’s presentation made it very real for them,” said Religious Education Coordinator Cate Pennington. “They wanted to know a whole lot more about the lives of the students in Madagascar and really wanted to do something practical to help.”
The school held a “Walk Safely to School Day” fundraiser to buy a water pump for a school in Madagascar. Students and parents walked safely to school and made donations at a Madagascar Fundraising Breakfast held by the staff. So far they have raised a surprising sum and continue in their enthusiasm to raise more money.
“Their generosity and that of their parents is very moving as some of our students and their families don’t always have access to all they need to lead a safe, healthy and happy life,” explained Peter Bowen.
With the help of generous schools and families across Australia, Catholic Mission has been able to build eight toilets and six water pumps at a Catholic school in the city of Vatomandry on the east coast of Madagascar. The school now also provides essential training on hygiene and sanitation to the children and their families. Since installing the toilets and water pumps in late 2013, there have been significant improvements in the children’s health as well as that of the whole community.
However, there are still countless children across Madagascar who do not have access to clean running water and proper sanitation at home or at school which is making them seriously ill. The funds raised by the students of Pius X School will make this ongoing work of the church possible.
The theme of this year’s Catholic Mission Church Appeal is inspired by the Gospel of Matthew, 25:35, “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” If you would like to support this essential work of the church in Madagascar and across the world, you can donate via Freecall 1800 257 296 or catholicmission.org.au.