MND students nurture passion for helping others
January 23, 2012
By Mike Dyer
ST. ANDREW DEANERY — Two Mount Notre Dame (MND) High School students have discovered a unique calling in nurturing a passion for helping others across the globe.
Freshman Molly Savage and junior Ellie Sennett helped to coordinate a variety of initiatives to help raise money recently for needy students in Uganda. What started as a small confirmation project in the eighth grade for Savage turned into a significant goal to raise $5,292 — enough money to supply books for all of the students in the middle school at St. Mary in Kyamhunga, Uganda.
“I have never been more satisfied about anything,” Savage said of helping the students in Uganda. “As I go through my freshman year at Mount Notre Dame, I am finding that I have a missionary heart, and this project has really taught me about poverty and how people find peace through their faith.”
Savage, who turns 15 on Feb. 5, named her project “Library of Love” and developed fundraising ventures like a bake sale at a Wal-Mart last summer that yielded about $800.
Savage and MND faculty member Todd Forman also helped to organize a concert in September in West Chester that resulted in donations for the additional money needed for the goal. A member of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Liberty Township, Savage actually surpassed her originally goal by raising $5,600. A committee of upperclassmen at MND helped design posters and spread the word about the concert throughout the school community. Savage said as many as 50 people attended the concert at Lakota Hills Baptist Church. Because she surpassed her goal by $300, Savage was able to purchase 459 books and not the original 294 for the students in Uganda.
“The kids recently sent me thank you notes with kind blessings such as ‘May you live until Jesus returns,’ and ‘May you live to blow 100 candles,’” Savage said. “One even drew a picture of her heart entering mine. I have a strong connection with these children although I have never even met them in person. They have become my far away family.”
Those blessings have helped to reinvigorate Savage’s Catholic faith and have given her hope that she could make a difference in the future. Savage said she was inspired to start the project with the help of her confirmation sponsor, Susan Giuliano, who is also a member of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish. Giuliano had previously visited Uganda and shared her experiences and impressions of St. Mary School with Savage. Savage started to email the pastor of Kyamuhunga Village, where the school is located, and was able to reach the principal.
“Molly grew her heart for a people she never knew, has never met yet…and cannot wait to meet.” Giuliano said. “She gained great leadership skills and strengthened her people skills, which were already there and just waiting to blossom.”
Through the “Library of Love,” Savage started fundraising with the help of her aunt, Sharon Savage. The price of one book was $18, so an individual could “buy a book” and receive a handmade bookmark in return.
“She helped me come up with the design for the bookmark and really helped me kick off my first fundraiser,” Savage said.
Another fundraiser was led by Sennett, who is public relations chairperson for Mount Notre Dame’s chapter of Unified 4 UNIFAT (Upper Nile Institute for Appropriate Technology). She helped coordinate a December concert that raised $1,000 – enough to support six students at the UNIFAT School in Gulu, Uganda. The school is a refuge for children in a war-torn area of the African nation and helps them stay safe during from violence. Sennett, 16, said she has gained a great deal of perspective from her work with U4U. She said the children at the UNIFAT school “are truly my heroes.”
“My motivation has always been to help those that are less fortunate than me, but with U4U in particular, it’s the education aspect,” Sennett said. “I am a very big supporter of education, whether it means passing levies here in the United States, or making an education more accessible to people in third world countries, I think having an education is incredibly important for the development of a country and for humanity.”
Sennett said there are other students on the waiting list and that an entire year’s tuition, uniform and lunch program is only $300 for the school in Uganda.
“When you look at how quickly we may go through that kind of money and weigh it against the impact it could have on a child in Uganda, I know I’m more than willing to make some sacrifices in my own life to help better someone else’s,” Sennett said.
Larry Mock, MND’s head of school, said he has been impressed by the students’ dedication and leadership. “They understand the social context of their work, whether it is here in Cincinnati or across the globe in Uganda,” he said. “Their work develops important leadership skills, while at the same time, it positively impacts others in a very important and personal way.”
While Savage is completed with the project in Uganda, her dream is to create a “Library of Love” in different areas of the world. She is contemplating missionary work in her future.
“These children counted on me to get them something they needed, even though they hardly knew my name,” she said. “They showed me that true love and happiness really does not come through things, but through faith in God, even in the toughest times. Each and every child there showed love and compassion and thankfulness towards me. I am an idol to them, and all I did was get them something some Americans are beginning to find useless. The children of Uganda really taught me to give thanks for everything I have sincerely, and that everything is a blessing from God. They are the poor, God’s special people, and I am so thankful that I was able to do something so little, yet something so much for them.”