St. Catharine’s hosts walk-a-thon for Congo women

(L-r) Amy Weber, Joanna Truglio, and Melissa Romero. Photo by Victor Chu

Members of the St. Catharine Academy student body are taking the initiative to help a cause that extends far beyond America’s shores.

Seven hundred and forty girls from the school participated in the walk on Wednesday, September 24, in order to raise money for sexually abused and mutilated women of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“We basically walked five kilometers and were just trying to encourage people in the streets to help support these women and these men. We were walking for something big,” said Amanda Rodriguez, sophomore at the academy. “In our classes we got sponsorships, we went into the community and collected money for these women too. That is just a small way to help these women.”

The project was inspired last fall by an article entitled Women left for dead and the man who is saving them, by Eve Ensler. The girls immediately took action, presenting their idea to their teachers and administrators.

“We received an article in our English class and we were devastated by what was going on over there. We didn’t believe anyone could do such horrific things to people, regardless of their gender,” stated Chelsea Andina, a junior at the school.The school contacted the African Faith and Justice Network, and 20 students were invited to attend the First Annual Congo Global Awareness Conference in Washington, D.C., held in March.

“The girls met with Senator Hillary Clinton’s aids, and they were trained by lobbyists on how to present the issues to the senator and others, and what issues to address,” explained Maureen Proschaska, assistant principal at St. Catharine’s Academy.

There the girls also had the opportunity to meet the inspiration behind the article, Doctor Denis Mukwege, of Panzi Hospital in the Congo. Mukwege has devoted his life and career to helping these suffering women, and the St. Catharine’s girls were able to present him with over $ 5,000 towards his efforts.

“Standing next to him was so nerve-wracking, he is like an idol to me and the rest of the girls here as well,” said junior Alexandra Otero. “He is such a humble man and so sweet and he genuinely appreciates everything we do.”

This year, as part of the Mercy Global Concerns focus, St. Catharine, along with 13 other Mercy schools, extended their support to awareness and prevention of AIDS and HIV in Kenya. These 14 schools together will raise $ 25,000 towards this cause.

The girls at St. Catharine wanted to embrace this new cause, but without neglecting their commitment to the Congo, so they decided to continue with both. The now upper grades passed the Congo torch to the freshman and sophomores, while beginning work towards the Kenya effort.

“The entire experience was really touching, I also came from a third world country so I have an idea of what its like to suffer and go through hardships, so when I read this article I really wanted to cry,” stated Toni-Ann Norton, who has entered her senior year. “I think it is very good that we keep it going and are now expanding to Kenya.”

The girls will continue their effort throughout the year under the motto “if one woman can do anything, than many women can do everything.”

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