Click on the link at the bottom of the page to see what has been happening on the charity front this year
St. Mary’s College staff and students take our role as responsible citizens in society very seriously, and the onus to help those less well off as ourselves is one that is deeply ingrained in the psyche of the entire College community.
We regularly participate and help in numerous fund-raising activities to aid those in need, culminating in our annual Charity Appeal at Christmas. The Charity appeal is best described in the following article, which appeared in the Connacht Tribune dated January 30th 2014.
From small acorns…
In October 2002, a conversation took place about a staff member’s weekend experience of staying with his nephew in a Temple Street Children’s Hospital ward. Unfortunately, for both uncle and patient, this was to be a trying experience. Neither got a peaceful night’s sleep due to lack of privacy and the glare from a strong light in the central space of the ward.
So moved were the staff of St Mary’s College by this story that it was decided to organise a fundraiser. After consultation with their students it was agreed that any funds raised would go towards buying new curtains to act as a screen around each bed. This would improve conditions for both patients and their relatives.
It started with a very simple idea. Why not raise some funds for charity by simply asking people for money? No raffles, no sponsorship, no fancy ideas, just plain simple asking…selling lines on a card. The students themselves decided on the method. Although hardly innovative, it proved to be a highly effective scheme. The students’ altruistic spirit shone through as they agreed there would be no ‘seller’s prize’. This was an exercise in the true spirit of ‘Agape’ – selfless charity.
And with that the St. Mary’s College Christmas Charity Appeal was developed. Collecting cards were printed and these were then distributed to each and every student in the College. These students, in turn, were asked to go out from the College and knock on the doors of their neighbours, their family, their friends, and on those of strangers, and to simply ask if they’d like to contribute some small amount to the chosen charity.
The initial expectation was to raise the sum of €2,000. However, much to the surprise and delight of students and staff alike the princely sum of €17,500 was raised, a sum which the President of St Mary’s College at the time, Fr. Peter Rabbitte, generously agreed to round up to €18,000.
That was back in 2002, and it was this past Christmas, 2013, that the milestone of €200,000 was surpassed. Over the years hundreds of students that have passed through the College have contributed to the collection of this sum, and thousands of people throughout Galway, and further afield, have contributed through their boundless generosity. Some efforts have been incredible, for instance, in 2007 two students, Peter and Shane Divilly, collected €9000 between them. Thankfully this commitment to helping each other is kept alive today by our current student body.
The most recent appeal, this Christmas, saw money being raised for the Samaritans and for Voices for Down Syndrome Galway. The lives of some of the neediest in society have been improved by the students’ efforts and these two worthy causes have been but two of the many charities that have benefitted over the years. In fact, to date there have been over 30 beneficiaries of the appeal with a practical approach having been taken to allocate funds based on local, national and international need. With that in mind the causes that the students of St Mary’s College have contributed to are many and varied, ranging from helping the victims of the Indonesian tsunami to providing televisions in Merlin Park Hospital for dialysis patients. Regardless of where the money has been going, near or far, people around Galway have been equally generous in their offerings.
In the early days the sums of money collected was simply staggering, and as the Celtic Tiger years rolled in these sums kept increasing. With the downturn in our economic fortunes it was expected that the funds coming in would soon dry up, but, although the amounts collected did diminish in size, people continued to contribute, and the College students kept turning up with more stories about the generosity of the people they encountered.
Everything evolves, and so it has been with the Charity Appeal , and as the years have progressed so have the collecting methods. The simple Collecting Card remains the basic modus operandi. However, this is now complemented by the annual auction, many school based raffles, non-uniform days and Carol singing in Shop Street. For a couple of weeks before Christmas students are sent out to the local businesses to simply ask if they have anything that they would like to contribute to our auction, or as raffle prizes. The response has always been outstanding, with vouchers and gifts pouring in to the College. For the Carol Singing a group of volunteer students don their Santa hats and proceed downtown to sing themselves hoarse for the cause. Inevitably, the response from the public in Galway is astounding, and the St. Mary’s students are always amazed to see how generous people can be.
And therein lies the benefit for the College. This annual fundraising event each Christmas is a wonderful opportunity for the boys to develop a social conscience and contribute positively and practically to society. In a time when things are tough the St. Mary’s students learn that they can contribute to making someone’s life perhaps a little easier. They learn the benefits of sacrifice and hard work. They also learn to engage with the Charities for whom they are collecting, to learn what they are all about, and if need be, especially with charities such as the Samaritans, to develop a sense of ownership with that charity that may be of benefit to them should the need arise in the future. If society could be broken up into ‘takers and givers’ then the students of St Mary’s definitely belong in the latter.
In conclusion it remains to say a very positive and heartfelt thank you to the people of Galway. Your generosity is commendable particularly in view of recent economic hardships. In recent years the causes we have supported have been local ones and all in St. Mary’s hope to continue with their charitable work into the future, and to continue to rely on the support and gestures of goodwill of everyone.