After his sister Caitlin – who lived with cerebral palsy and seizure disorders – passed away last November at the age of 29, Roche and his mother decided to raise funds for the Missionaries of the Poor who run an outreach in Kingston.
“We thought it would be a great way to honor her,” he told CNA.
Roche aims to raise $29,000 – a thousand dollars for each year of his sister's life – for Bethlehem House by the time he returns to Jamaica later in the spring semester. He has already raised $12,000 in funds since his sister's funeral from his local community at home in New York, through his “big family” and from donors from the Catholic University of America community.
Bethlehem House is one of five similar homes serving disabled, homeless and at-risk people around Jamaica operated by the Sisters of Charity, and it currently serves around 60 disabled and at-risk children, many of whom have no one else to care for them. The homes rely completely on volunteer and charitable support.
Roche said that when he visited Bethlehem House while on a school-sponsored mission trip, he “had a really great experience,” and was looking forward to returning during this year's mission trip. The mission trip also features other service activities in Jamaica, including spending time with the elderly and visiting the poor in the city.
“A lot of those kids don't have the resources” his sister and other persons living with disabilities have, Roche said. “We're definitely looking forward to giving them a lot of money, because they'll definitely put it to good use,” he added.
Catholic University provides students with the opportunity to apply for school sponsored mission trips throughout the world, but typically limits students to one trip due to the limited space available and high interest from the student body. However, Brother Jim Moore, associate campus minister for justice and missions, told Catholic University that Roche will be allowed to return as a trip leader.
“He demonstrated an ability to work with diverse personalities and foster positive relationships with his peers, his supervisors, and with those to whom he ministered, especially the disabled children,” Br. Moore told the university in a Feb. 12 article.
“We were impressed with his energy, commitment, and joyfulness in his service. Needless to say, he was a natural pick as a student leader for this year’s summer trip to Jamaica.”
Funds can be donated to Roche's project here.
Catholic University engineering student James Roche hopes to raise money for a disabled children's home in Jamaica, not only for those he met while on a 2013 mission trip but in memory of his sister.
Catholic University of America, Missionaries of the Poor, Jamaica