Ursuline Students Act to Address Venezuelan Food Crisis

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At a Venezuelan restaurant in New Rochelle, students from The Ursuline School in the Westchester city met last week to have a meal and talk about what the Venezuelan food crisis means to them, and how they are raising awareness in the United States and raising funds to provide a daily “arepa” breakfast for school children at Corazon de Maria school in a poor neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela.

The after-school gathering took place May 1 at Arepa Mania, a restaurant on North Avenue in New Rochelle. It is a Venezuelan family-owned restaurant; the family name is Angulo. Arepa is a popular food made of ground maize dough or cooked flour; it is prominent in cuisine of Venezuela and Colombia. The gathering was part of The Ursuline School’s service partnership with Merici Academy, an Ursuline girls’ pre-K to 12 school in Caracas. The school benefiting from fund-raising efforts, Corazon de Maria, is a co-ed Catholic primary/secondary school with 750 students.

The Ursuline School in New Rochelle is a girls’ school, grades 6 to 12, with 800 students. Venezuela has been suffering from the food crisis as well as from social and political unrest.

“I think the effort is great—we’ve brought attention (to the crisis) and connection with the community, creating something very special,” Quinn Hogan, a senior at The Ursuline School, said May 3 in a phone interview with CNY, referring to the gathering at the restaurant. “The Ursuline sisters have always been known for global outreach, and Venezuela has been in a very serious crisis.”

Quinn noted that the fund-raising campaign is in keeping with “the Church’s teachings—to help people in need; and this is what the Ursulines strive for.”

Vittoria Gallello, a senior at The Ursuline School, said the restaurant gathering “was a wonderful experience—it was so terribly important. We needed to do something to help them; we had to do something.”

The gathering, considered a class fieldtrip, was attended by six students and two staff members. The 16 students in the class took part in an in-class celebration the next day, with food from the restaurant.

The students at The Ursuline School are taking Spanish 5 Honors, and their teacher is Sister Brenda Buckley, O.S.U., who was one of the attending staff members.

“The Ursuline sisters have been active in Venezuela for a very long time,” Sister Brenda said. “And this particular initiative, Activa Tu Serviam, is in response to the horrible scenes we’re seeing in Venezuela. We decided to coordinate efforts, and focus on justice; we are united with the Venezuelan people.”

Sister Brenda noted that “serviam” is Latin for “I will serve,” and so Activa Tu Serviam is Spanish for Activate Your I Will Serve.

Since 1960, the Ursulines in Venezuela, with help from parents and alumnae from Merici Academy, have been supporting education and Catholic formation at Corazon de Maria in Petare, a neighborhood in Caracas. They now have begun the initiative Activa Tu Serviam, and the related hashtag is #activatuserviam — to alleviate hunger and meet basic needs by bringing food, medicine and school supplies to the schoolchildren. They can supply fewer than half the students with an “arepa” breakfast; their goal is to provide daily breakfast to all 750 children at the school.

The students at The Ursuline School in New Rochelle organized themselves into groups and created fliers, posters and a video, which are being disseminated to raise awareness and raise funds. The effort began in February after a talk at the school on the dire situation in Venezuela—a talk given by two Ursuline sisters, one of whom served in Venezuela for many years.

In addition to the students from Spanish 5 Honors, another group of students at The Ursuline School in New Rochelle, in the Honors Choir, made a recording and are providing CDs for a freewill offering, with all funds going to the campaign. Information: (914) 636-3950.

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