Posted by Br Gary Wison
on 28 June 2021
Getting up to be at school by 6am doesn't sound like much fun. That is the lot of the 'Breakfast Club' volunteer students, at La Salle Technical College at Hohola in Port Moresby. Four days a week, a nutritious meal is served to 200, could be 300 students.
Although the idea is not new for schools, where students are struggling in disadvantaged families, La Salle's Club must be near the gold standard. In 2012, this important program was begun. As the current College Director says: "We have students that commute to school from villages as far away as Tubusereia & Boera along Magi Highway, east of Port Moresby. Additionally, 75% of our students live in settlement areas, which lack basic services of water, electricity and sanitation. ("Settlements" in PNG is the term for squatter areas). Most of these students miss out on breakfast... Many students arrive as early as 7am at school. They get up around 5am to make their way to school."
The core reason for the program is promoting health. Some students arriving at school at 8.30am might otherwise have nothing to eat before they leave at 4pm. Secondly, it is well known that lack of nourishment badly affects a person's learning and concentration. And from a Christian point of view, it fulfills the Gospel call to "feed the hungry" of our brothers and sisters.
The volunteer students prepare the food from the markets in the afternoon, ready for the next morning. Mr. Larry Aua, the Youth Minister at La Salle Technical College, reports:
"On the menu is rice, a source of protein and veggies (rice, donated by a local businessman, rotated with sausage or chicken, and vegetables). Every day, 10kg of rice is cooked as well as 5kg of protein. Breakfast is served at 7:20am to many hungry teenagers. Each volunteer helps serve even-portion sizes to every student. Growing teenagers eat together in the yard, and are continually thanking the staff and volunteers. They appreciate the kind gesture, and are grateful for the funds provided to support this vital initiative, for their well-being and education".
One Australian De La Salle school has had this program as one of its base-donation projects for many years. Br. Adrian Watson, Acting Director of the Lasallian Foundation, mentions that "Oakhill College in Castle Hill (NSW) has been particularly supportive, donating $AUS10,000 in 2019 and $AUS3,000 in 2020. Following a submission from the Lasallian Foundation in early 2021, the Lasallian Foundation International in the USA was able to source funding for the Breakfast Club, from the FSC Foundation of $US7,500.
"The Breakfast Club costs about $AUS250 per week or $10,000 over the 40 weeks of the academic year. This amount does not include the donation of sausages worth $1,300 over the course of a year from a local businessman, and the use of equipment and electricity supplied by the College. For the hundreds of students who regularly benefit from the Breakfast Club, this works out to be $1.25 per student per week or $50 per student per year".
Donors are always welcome - to continue this valuable service! And to upgrade the equipment and facilities, used for making a tasty meal, by students, for students.