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Jonesboro school gets on board Ark of Hope

New program from Catholic Relief Services a perfect fit for children’s Lent

Published: February 28, 2017   
Sarah Morris
Tracey Crafton (center) shows off her son’s goat Karl to third grader Ian Choi (from left), pre-kindergartener Zoey Gonzalez, fourth-grader Naiya Lazo, sixth-grader Braxton Banks and second-grader Lynlee Hausman-Taku at Blessed Sacrament School Feb. 10.

Blessed Sacrament students in Jonesboro greeted an extra special kid to their school Feb. 10. But Karl the goat had more to offer than just a cute face and fuzzy coat for the children to pet — he was a real-life example of what can be provided overseas to a family in need through Catholic Relief Services’ Ark of Hope program.

“It was so fun, the kids were excited when they saw him,” said Mary Kay Jones, parishioner and media specialist at Blessed Sacrament who started the Ark of Hope program with students in September. One student from each grade given the monthly school-wide “citizenship award” was chosen to meet Karl.

“We talked about how goats are one of the animals we can purchase to send to a family in need in another country. Goats can provide milk, a healthy nutritional diet for the kids in the family,” she said. 

Every year, pre-k through sixth-grade participates in various Christians in Action service projects to help those in need either locally or globally. When students visit the library on Thursdays, they donate money in their class container to the Ark of Hope, which CRS then uses to provide a variety of animals to a family in one of the five continents where it provides aid. The program is new for CRS which Jones said was fitting, as it is her first year in this position. Her four daughters all attended Blessed Sacrament School.

“The Ark of Hope, this is so good; it’s showing these kids something tangible,” she said, adding there are several materials on to start a successful Ark of Hope program. “… It’s kids taking care of other kids.”

The program animals include rabbits ($27), pigs ($30), poultry (five hens, one rooster, $40), lambs and baby goats ($80) and cows ($300). Children can also raise money to donate a tree sapling (five for $5), a beehive ($410) or an entire Ark of Hope, which includes everything for $892. So far, the children have collected close to $350. Their goal is $700. Jones said they’ve read the story of Noah’s Ark and are able to look at a poster with each of the animals, what they’d do for a family and how much they cost, so they can remain focused on their fundraising efforts.

“A lot of them really want to buy the whole ark. That’s awesome,” she said. “The bee hive is really cool, which will help the families produce honey to turn around and sell.”

Because the all-school Mass is also on Thursdays, Jones said it’s a great way to incorporate the Gospel and homilies to the Ark of Hope, from the beatitudes to being the “salt and light.”

“They’re learning the world is a very big place, and we have to do what we can to take care of others, to be the light and salt of the earth. You do that by helping others in need and by showing them Christ loves all of us no matter where they come from,” Jones said. “My hope is that they learn they may be small but they can make a big difference in the world.”

The program ends in April and to incorporate Lent, Jones said they will do a special Lenten drive to see which classes can raise the most money, proportionate to their class size. 

“We talk about how Lent isn’t just about giving something up. You give up buying an ice cream … and maybe that money could go to the Ark of Hope,” she said. “It’s about doing something more, pushing yourself to do more for others; seeing others in need.”

Jones said she hopes to have a friend bring in rabbits and chickens to the library for all the students to meet and learn about how they would help families.

“It’s about trying to help them learn about compassion for others, showing mercy toward others and having a kind heart. For the older kids it’s a good lesson in humility,” she said. “We live in a society that’s me, me, me, that’s what the world wants us to believe. But what does Christ want me to do? Will they see I’m Christ-like and I’m doing my best to help others?”

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