I attended the above event in Cork yesterday morning. Congratulations to all involved. There was really good debate at the tables among the students from the different schools in the Edmund Rice tradition in the Cork area. They talked about what they valued about being part of the Edmund Rice school community, who are those most in need of our support locally, how can we be advocates for the voiceless in our midst, etc.
Donncha O’Callaghan, an Irish International rugby player and past pupil of CBC, spoke about his role as Ambassador for UNICEF. He fielded questions from those present about his role and his career as a International rugby player. Donncha said a lot of interesting things but perhaps the one that sticks in my mind was his simple statement that he now knows the difference between standing in to a photograph for charity and being an advocate for people in need. One is about the “Ego” the other is about being a voice for the voiceless, getting your hands dirty and being changed by the experience. He told the lovely but sad story of being asked to hold a child that was starving and realising that she weighed a little more than the Rugby jersey he wore while his own daughter, who was the same age, just 9 months old, need all his strength to hold safely. The difference? One was lucky enough to be born in a part of the world where there was peace and prosperity.
People often do not understand what advocacy means and mistake it for charity. While charity will always be necessary, Br. Brian Bond pointed out that Advocacy is about fighting for people’s rights. Edmund Rice International does this especially around the rights of the child, the right to education and the right to a sustainable future. Brian encouraged the students present to become advocates for the rights of children in their area and internationally. He invited schools to consider appointing Edmund Rice Ambassadors who would keep the needs of children to the forefront of students minds.
During the day Greenmount Presentation Brothers Primary School provided a short music performance and later in the morning Blarney Street Primary school gave us a session of “hard rock” music. One of the striking things about each group, as well as their musical talent, was the international makeup of both groups. This, once again, gave the lie to those who would try to say that Catholic schools are not inclusive.
Once again, great credit is due to all those who organised the day. May it become an annual event. Maybe it will encourage other schools in the Edmund Rice tradition in other parts of the country to consider doing a similar event where both schools and projects of all types can come together to celebrate their identity.