Thanks to the miracle of Skype, students from St. Mary School exchanged greetings, songs and questions with children at an orphanage near Delhi, India, last month as part of a series of events planned for the Branford, Connecticut school’s 50th anniversary.
"It was a lot of fun," said fourth-grader Cara Samson, capturing some of the excitement of the students. "We got to see people in a different country and talk to them and stuff."
Despite periodic breaks in the connection, students from St. Mary’s gathered in the parish center to watch children in India perform a song they had composed in English to honor the school’s jubilee. The Indian students also danced to music from the movie "Slum Dog Millionaire." It was 10 a.m. in Branford and 7 p.m. in India.
St. Mary’s held the cyberspace event with Ashalayam (meaning measure of hope), an orphanage in India where more than 150 children from the age of 8 to 18 are cared for by the Salesians of Don Bosco.
All of the children are either runaways or are forced to migrate from remote villages to cities in search of food, shelter and work because of poverty, hunger, maltreatment or the death of parents. The orphanage works to take in the abandoned children before they are taken captive by thugs and gangs for drug trafficking, prostitution or begging.
Salesian Father John Kuzhikottayil, parochial vicar at St. Mary’s and former headmaster of the orphanage, was in India on pilgrimage to coordinate the program at the other end of the connection.
According to Father Christopher Ford, Pastor of St. Mary Parish, parishioners recently collected more than $9,000 for the orphanage in India, enough to feed, clothe, shelter and educate children there for three months.
"It was a great day," said Donna Binkoski, principal. "Despite losing [Skype] connections, the connections we made with the children are for a lifetime."
She noted that just earlier in the week, the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools had encouraged schools during a special meeting to evangelize by using the tools of cyberspace, such as Skype and the Internet.
Each school plans to make a DVD of its program to exchange for future showings and to post on YouTube.
Among the numerous events planned to mark the jubilee year is a 50th-anniversary auction and gala dinner Dec. 12 at the Woodwinds Banquet Hall in Branford.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Transcript, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn.