St. Catherine Academy
Bronx, New York
On March 30, students from St. Catharine Academy in Bronx, New York, personally handed a check for $3,500 to Dr. Denis Mukwege, a physician who cares for victims of sexual violence in war-torn eastern Congo.
The students had met Dr. Mukwege and others working to help the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) when they traveled to Washington, DC, for a Museum conference. Attended by activists from across the country, the conference focused on the conflict in the DRC, which is partially rooted in the 1994 Rwanda genocide and has claimed an estimated 5.4 million lives since 1998. While in DC the students also met with Senator Hillary Clinton’s legislative aide and lobbied with activists from other states.
St. Catharine Academy’s work on Congo all started when English teacher Roseanne Riolo read an article in Glamour magazine about the violence being committed against women in DRC. She shared this article with her students, and what started as a “women’s awareness” lesson soon spread across the entire school community into a Congo Awareness / Mercy Outreach campaign. Students, teachers, and parents, outraged at the brutal sexual violence taking place, sprang to action and embraced their school mission of helping those in need.
Eleventh-grader Linda Nguyen reports, “Never in the history of our school have we had as much school spirit as we have now for the plight of the women in the Congo.” The students developed a letter- writing campaign, held numerous fundraising events, produced an educational video, and were invited to speak at a local radio station to raise awareness about the atrocities being committed in Congo. And their work to help women in Congo is ongoing: they have plans to take their awareness campaign to their Summer Mercy Camp and are working on getting their Women for Women International affiliation. In addition, the students continue to raise funds for Congolese women and are working to set up a penpal system with them.