Students Building Bridges, Within a Parish and Across the Country to the Navajo Nation
After a year of Covid-mandated separation, it was time to reach out at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Delmar, New York, a hamlet just outside Albany, the state capital.
“We’ve always had an Art Show to raise awareness of the care for creation, featuring inspirational posters and other art,” said Denise Chonski, art teacher in the Parish school. “But this year we thought we needed to do more, to find a cause, something everyone could support.
“We wanted to build a bridge between the school community and the parish community after a year of not being together. We met with the parish’s Care for Creation team over Zoom and concluded that our Art Show was nice, but that we should create a push to make a difference.”
Jeanne Schrempf, a member of the Care for Creation team, was already a supporter of Water With Blessings, and some years ago the team had helped fund a water source in an impoverished area.
“She suggested we support Water With Blessings,” Denise said. “And when we saw the work going on with the Navajo Nation, it had such an impact on all of us. Here in the US, there are people without clean water to drink. And at this time of having to wash our hands to avoid the virus, they couldn’t even do that.
“Also, it was a chance for children to help other children. Our students learned that others can’t just go to the faucet and get a drink of water. It helped them understand the impact of what they were doing for others, helped them connect personally.”
Since the efforts were going to assist the Navajo people, the students decided to follow the example of Navajo art and make pottery and other crafts.
“We’re blessed to have a kiln here, so the students were able to make coil ceramics,” Denise said. “Mary Ann Hospodar, our Youth Ministry Director, works with young people in grades 6 through 12. She got them involved in painting designs on glass vases that were purchased for them to use. Then for the inspirational posters, students found a quote from scripture that related to water, then illustrated the quote.”
The students and youth ministry group worked through March and April. The Art Show was held on April 24 and 25, after the Saturday evening and Sunday Masses. Everyone who made a donation could take home a piece of art.
The event raised an astounding $1,242. That’s enough to fund nearly 20 Water Women in the Navajo Nation. The newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, The Evangelist, reported on the event, which brought in a few more donations.
Denise attributed the success to the many people who joined the effort.
“We just kind of let it happen,” she said. “It was amazing how it became so widespread. Each person had his or her own little part: the volunteers who helped us organize; and the students and youth ministry kids who were saying, ‘Hey, I made this!’
“The children were very excited to be making things for others. Some of them said, ‘I’d gladly donate this so someone could have clean water.’ We had students involved down as far as the kindergarten.”
Denise said the effort brought everyone together.
“Just the idea that we were able to help Native Americans, help mothers provide for their families,” she said. “Putting our abilities to use, letting go, letting ourselves be open to what God wants us to provide. This went way beyond anyone’s or the group’s expectations.”
Would You Like to Sponsor an Art Show Too?
As Denise Chonski said in the article above, the Art Show at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish was a great success because the support became so widespread. Everyone involved did just a little bit, and the results surpassed everyone’s expectations.
Denise shared with us her framework for the event. If you, or someone you know, would like to sponsor an art show, or similar event, please click on the button below.
It is just these kinds of events that make Water With Blessings “the little nonprofit that can.” We remain a grassroots organization with world-wide reach. Each gift, no matter the size, goes to help put buckets and Sawyer PointONE Filters in the hands of Water Women who provide clean water to their own and three other families.
Please consider doing your little bit to help those who lack our one basic necessity: clean water.