Little Goes a Long Way


St. Andrew the Apostle preschool teacher Jeanette Bailey points out photos of Rwandan children to her class. Also seen on the display board is the letter sent to the children by Fr. Joseph, MIC, thanking them for their support of the Marians’ mission in Rwanda.



A mother and daughter at St. Andrew the Apostle preschool in Romeoville, Ill., make bookmarks for the sale that sent $183 to Marians’ mission in Rwanda.

Preschoolers’ Bookmark Sale Raises Funds for Marian Mission in Rwanda

By Dan Valenti (Jan 18, 2008)

How do you stretch $183 into a miracle of giving? You call in preschoolers. You ask the children to do it, because — in a word — they TRUST.

Whereas most adults express faith in lower case, kids TRUST in capital letters. What can cause grownups conniptions — the simple legend of “Jesus, I trust in You” found beneath the image of The Divine Mercy — children don’t even see as an issue. For the innocent, TRUST is as transparent as water and as easy as breathing.

Jeanette Bailey’s pupils at St. Andrew the Apostle Preschool in Romeoville, Ill., recently learned a valuable lesson on giving as an aspect of TRUST. Inspired by their teacher, the 14 children made bookmarks and sold them at Christmas for $1 apiece to family and friends, raising $183.

They won’t, however, be spending the money on themselves. Every cent has been sent to Rwanda, Africa, to help children with much more urgent needs.

The children’s $183 will be used to help the Marian mission in Rwanda. Specifically, it will help Fr. Leszek Czelusniak, MIC, and the missionaries to drill a new well and build a new grammar school in the village of Kibeho. Maybe $183 will only help the well get one inch deeper and buy only 50 bricks, but that’s one inch and 50 bricks that won’t be Fr. Les’s headache.

Because this involves preschoolers, the first reaction might be, “Aw, isn’t that cute?” The realization might be, “But we adults know how little $183 goes today.” The reality is that this $183 has already gone a long way and made a deep impact.

Most who have heard the story of Jeannette Bailey’s preschoolers react with cheer, gratefulness, and a tinge of healthy guilt. For if the little children can work so hard and raise what is for them so much, how much more can we do for the less fortunate, we, with all the blessings that fill our lives to abundance? Only time will tell, but I’m laying odds that this humble $183 will inspire many people by example and be like the mustard seed that Jesus likens to faith: the tiniest of seeds, the biggest of trees.

Who knows? Maybe even at this moment, someone with the means is reading this and will be moved to unusual generosity that would, with a signature on one check, take care of one of these needed projects. All things are possible.

The well will have a profound impact on the lives of people in Kibeho, bringing potable water to a region plagued by dry spells. Having a local supply of fresh water to drink, cook, and wash will also eliminate the one-hour walk now required to haul water. Think of that the next time you hear someone complaining about the quality of his tap water or knocking the cost of her bottled H2O — a two-hour roundtrip, the one coming back laden down with the weight of water.

The grammar school will give children in Kibeho the academic skills necessary to escape crushing poverty and earn a decent living. It will replace degradation with dignity, hatred with hope, and contempt with confidence. Yes, education can do all that, almost as much as prayer. According to Mrs. Bailey, the children of St. Andrew’s seemed to grasp that intuitively. Education, taken so much for granted in this country, is valued as a priceless resource in a country trying to rebound from the unspeakable horror of genocide, as Rwanda is doing. The process is agonizing, the progress is slow, and against a struggle so hard, $183 isn’t much — but it is a symbol of what can be achieved.

So how does a preschool teacher in Illinois get involved with a Marian mission in Africa?

“Father Leszek had come to my parish [Our Lady of Peace in Darien, Ill.],” says Jeanette. “He gave a presentation on his mission. It was so moving. I was sitting there thinking, ‘I can do something with the preschoolers to help. Yes! We can do something.’ ” Thus began the bookmark project.

In a letter sent to the children on Jan 7, Fr. Joseph, MIC, Director of the Association of Marian Helpers, thanked the boys and girls for their act of mercy.

Yesterday, we celebrated Epiphany — the twelfth day of Christmas when three wise men reached Bethlehem and met the baby Jesus. On this special day, when we remember how much Jesus loves all the people of the world, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, said a special “thank you” to all the children who are helping missionaries. He sees that you, along with children from many countries, are helping Jesus by loving the poor children in another part of the world and doing something to make their lives better.

Keep up the good work. One way that you can continue to help is to pray for the children of Rwanda. Maybe when you ask the Lord to bless your food at mealtimes or when you are saying a prayer before going to sleep, ask God to bless the children of Rwanda and all the children of the world.”

“The children were so thrilled to receive Fr. Joseph’s letter,” Jeanette says, “that we made it into a poster.” The poster also includes photographs of Rwandan children that are served by the Marians.

These little ones had discovered the joy of giving.

Somewhere out there, $183 worth of good will could be well on its way to yielding a bonanza of hope.

If you want to help Fr. Leszek and the Marians in Rwanda, please consider making a donation online or sending it to Fr. Joseph, MIC, P.O. Box 716, Stockbridge, MA 01262.