Helping Hands for Burkina Faso

by J.T. Rodriguez

Every hand scooping, every hand sealing, every hand boxing food was touching another hand on the other side of the world. There is something different about using your own hands to help a person, which is distinctly different from simply giving a dollar: it becomes personal.

BurkinaFaso_001Saturday, more than 80 people pre-registered, and more than 100 attended, a Helping Hands event at St. Augustine Catholic Church benefiting needy people from the African nation of Burkina Faso, including student athletes, Greek students from the University of Florida, dozens of Catholic Gators and parishioners from St. Augustine Catholic Church, Maureen Nessmith, parishioner and co-leader of the event, said.

“It’s a really great opportunity for this community to reach out to serve others. We see a lot of bad news when we turn on the television, look at the newspaper, we see all kinds of bad things that are happening in the world,” Father David Ruchinski, director of the Catholic Student Center, said.

It’s not hopeless though, the truth is that everyone can make a difference in the world. By stepping up and serving locally you can change conditions elsewhere the world, Father Ruchinski said.

There were more than 10,000 meals packaged for the hungry in Burkina Faso, 10,152 to be exact. Each package has enough food to feed six people. It’s really fantastic, Maureen said.

Madeleine Traore, a parishioner at St. Augustine, was born and raised in Burkina Faso. For her the event was doubly personal and emotional.

“I know how difficult reality is,” Traore said.

“It will really, really be a great help for us, for my population,” Traore said. “I really don’t know how to thank people enough. To think about us over there…that people some places are thinking about their brothers overseas or anywhere in the world,” Traore said.

There are two main benefits I see from this program. One is, of course, helping the people in Burkina Faso with the food. The other is to give our parishioners the opportunity to participate in something like this. I’m sure it’s very gratifying for our parishioners, and for some of them I’m sure this will be the beginning of more volunteer work, Bill Nessmith, co-leader of the event, said.

“In addition to college students, younger students are helping out with the project too. There’s families too, all having fun together. They ring the gong every time they do a thousand meals, and so that’s really fun. Everybody cheers,” Maureen said.

Fittingly, Traore got to ring the final gong.

“We want to help the poor in our community and in our country, but we also want to help our brothers and sisters around the world. That’s why the student center and St. Augustine Church worked together to host this event,” Maureen said.

Rodriguez is a student at the University of Florida majoring in journalism.