By SHARON BLACK-Special To The Bulletin | Published December 22, 2005
All of the classrooms at Our Lady of the Assumption School are filled with excitement as the Christmas season advances. Advent wreaths, colorful angels and seasonal bulletin boards adorn each room. But in addition to the usual Christmas decorations, a large basket or box resides in each classroom as a reminder that giving during Advent, rather than receiving, always seems to bring more joy than at any other time of the year.
This year, Karen Mujica and the spiritual life committee at OLA School again coordinated the “Advent Adopt-A-Family Project” as a school project, with help of the Atlanta chapter of Catholic Social Services (CSS). These containers in the classrooms are not only filled with gifts but are overflowing with generosity and love from OLA’s families for the 18 refugee families that the school is sponsoring for Christmas. The refugee families live in very sparse conditions, and each family has their own story and special needs.
Through this program, students are reminded that reaching out to refugees during Advent has a special connection to the birth and life of Jesus as is explained in the words of Pope John Paul II, “The Church is ever mindful that Jesus Christ himself was a refugee, that as a child he had to flee with his parents from his native land in order to escape persecution. In every age, therefore, the Church feels herself called to help refugees.”
The students have learned that a refugee is someone who has fled his or her country due to war, social unrest or persecution because of race, religion, politics or national origin. More than 10 million refugees exist worldwide, and approximately 8 million are women and children from developing countries.
In the CSS program, each refugee family provided a wish list, usually comprised of basic family needs, such as clothing, dishes, utensils, household goods and toys for their children. All donations to the families are voluntary, and some of the families combined their resources to purchase some of the larger items. The overall response has been tremendous. The donated goods will help the families get established and work toward self-sufficiency.
To make this a meaningful service project involving the entire family, the committee provided each student’s family with Scripture readings (Matthew 2:13-15, Hebrews 13: 1-2), prayers and additional information on the refugees.
Donating families have already expressed that the giving of their gifts, time and talents during Advent served to bring even more joy and insight into their own Advent season.
Through this program, the school helped 18 families, consisting of 64 family members, from the countries of Cuba, Congo, Iran, Vietnam, Zaire, Russia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia and Cameroon. OLA families donated approximately 700 new items, including 13 toaster ovens, 15 sets of pots and pans, 27 alarm clocks, 39 blankets, 45 jackets, 62 shirts and well over 100 toys.
The volume of the donations exceeded the capacity of eight delivery vans/trucks, and CSS had to return for a third pickup.
The school families were especially proud that they fulfilled every single request for a bicycle—including nine children’s bicycles and 12 adult bicycles, a total of 21 bicycles.
OLA school is located at 1320 Hearst Drive, NE.
To learn more about OLA School’s Advent Adopt-A-Family Project, visit the school’s Web site at www.olaschool.org or call Catholic Social Services at (404) 881-6571.