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Thunga Primary School

St Irene's Social Justice Committee is excited for the parish to contribute to Design Cause Inc's work building classrooms for Thunga Primary School in Malawi. We are grateful to all parishioners contributing, and we plan to keep you informed about the progress of the project via this page.

Updates

What follows is an article submitted to several local papers in May/June 2018:

“A Young Architect Transforms African Communities”:

Kelsey Bradley is leading her non-profit corporation Design Cause Inc. into another major project, with the help of $36,000 from parishioners at St Irene’s in Carlisle, MA, along with another $43,000 raised directly by Design Cause. These funds have enabled Kelsey to expand her latest project to build a five-classroom addition to the primary school in Thunga, a southern region of Malawi in southeast Africa. In addition to the building, Design Cause will provide blackboards, desks, and teaching equipment to meet their classroom needs. Kelsey has her flight for Malawi booked for July, and she hopes to finish the project by late September.

Kelsey, a 2009 graduate of Concord Carlisle High School, carried her commitment to service as a parishioner of St Irene’s into her college years, where she tested the boundaries at Philadelphia University. Instead of developing an avant-garde building for her senior thesis, she designed a school in Ngong, northern Cameroon, sourcing local materials and employing local workers. Prior to travelling to Cameroon to oversee construction of the school, Kelsey established Design Cause Inc, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, to facilitate her plan to use her design skills to support practical needs in developing countries. Kelsey explained: “My dream for this organization is that it will bring the positive effects of design to communities in need around the globe because everyone deserves the chance to flourish in functional and beautiful buildings.”

Kelsey added that the mission of Design Cause Inc is “to teach a replicable skill using local resources at lower costs to ensure that the buildings are sustainable, built with local labor, coordinated with local leaders, and provide economic stimulus to the local economy while improving conditions.” By collaborating with local leaders, Kelsey ensures that the money donated is utilized to build a resource that is not limited to a one-off contribution. Instead, the schools Kelsey has designed in Cameroon -- and soon in Malawi -- provide a model easily duplicated.

Local students are excited for St Irene's to help them build! Local students are excited for St Irene's to help them build!

Kelsey attributed her vision for Design Cause to the influence of her family and church community’s tradition of “giving back,” as well as to frustrations in her college architecture studies. She described: “Although I can't pinpoint the exact moment I knew I was meant to do humanitarian work, I can safely assume it came out of a period of frustration in my third year of architecture school. Frustration with what I was learning in architecture school. Frustration within myself that I wasn't doing anything meaningful or impactful.” Kelsey challenged her university and built her first school, and now she’s embarking on her second school project, with the generous support of St Irene’s and other donors to Design Cause Inc.

This is the third major project in Africa supported by St Irene’s in Carlisle. In 2008, St Irene’s Social Justice Committee raised over $30,000 and built five wells and 10 latrines with improved ventilation systems for Chinyama Village in Malawi. In 2010, St Irene’s raised an equivalent sum to fund the development of a biogas converter to provide renewable, low cost, low carbon-emitting fuel for the seminary that trains Catholic priests in Rwanda.

St Irene’s Social Justice Committee chair Ken Mostello said that St Irene’s is “a very socially-conscious parish” that seeks to “support and fulfill the social and humanitarian mission of the Catholic Church.  We are fortunate in that we are able to leverage the local, in-country resources of the Church to facilitate the construction process, control costs and assure the success of these projects.”

In addition to helping those in need, St Irene’s Social Justice Committee hopes to demonstrate the commitment of the parish to others while providing role models for the parish youth. Ken said: “Kelsey, a long-time parishioner and CCHS graduate, is the personification of the Christian example we want to set for children and our community.”

What follows is from our Social Justice Committee Chairman, speaking at Mass on March 11th 2018.

In Lent, we observe 3 pillars of faith which are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Our Malawi project naturally follows the tradition of almsgiving. Our almsgiving is faith affirming, but it’s also demonstrative. When the secular world questions the meaning or relevance of Catholicism and other organized faiths, you have responded by demonstrating just how meaningful and relevant we really are. We are doing something here that is purposeful and serves an important humanitarian cause, but it says even more about what we believe and who we are.

What we’ve accomplished in these few weeks is nothing short of miraculous. When I say miraculous, I ask you to contemplate what we, and that means all of us, have done. We are a small Catholic parish in the Boston archdiocese. In a few short weeks we collected nearly enough money and assembled the other resources to construct 3 classrooms for our needy and deserving Catholic brothers and sisters in a small African village half way around the world. Your generosity means that 200 children will no longer be crammed together in a classroom meant for a fraction of that number. Your generosity also affirms that our faith is more than just some noble or altruistic ideas. We are prepared as a community to enable and support those like Kelsey Bradley who selflessly carry out those ideas.

I’m reminded of those words in the Creed, where we proclaimed our belief in “one holy catholic and apostolic church”. From here in suburban Boston to a small village in southeast Africa, we work today as one holy catholic and apostolic church. Holy, because the Gospels would tell us that God’s children should not be denied clean water to drink, or basic sanitation, or the opportunity for an education. You said so in 2004 and you say so again now 14 years later. It’s catholic, which means universal, and we are one in that we are a single worldwide faith, accomplishing God’s work unbounded by tribal, national, or other manmade borders. And finally, it’s apostolic, because this is a missionary undertaking in its truest form. In this season of Lent we all strive to be apostles by what we do and the success of this mission is living proof.

Allow me to be specific on what’s been accomplished and what’s left to do. To date (March 11th 2018) we’ve collected just over $28,000 of our $30,000 goal. That’s 93%!

So, allow me to use a sports analogy to make my point. It’s the 4th quarter; there’s seconds left on the clock and we’ve got the ball on the opponent’s 30 yard line and we’re down by 2. The hard battle has been fought. We don’t need a touchdown or to recover an on-side kick. Just send one through the uprights for 3 points and we can declare victory and go home. So, folks, I’m not asking for big contributions. I’m just asking you to consider digging into your pockets one last time on your way out to put us over the top.

We expect to be starting construction in the coming months and we will report back to you as the project progresses. And, of course, I thank you for all you’ve done to make this possible.

Current school building, Thunga Primary School Current school building, Thunga Primary School Crowded classroom at Thunga shows the need for more rooms.Crowded classroom at Thunga shows the need for more rooms. St Irene's to help them build!

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