Service trip strengthens call to serve

By 
  • April 27, 2011
Natalie Rizzo with one of the street children from Calcutta’s Loreto Day School Sealdah. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Rizzo)NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. - In the joy and resilience of the street children of Calcutta, Natalie Rizzo found her faith deepened and her passion for helping others awakened.

Rizzo, the student trustee for the Toronto Catholic District School Board and a student at Toronto’s Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts High School, travelled to India last year with the Loretto Sisters as part of an outreach service trip. The program was offered through the TCDSB’s “Adventure Learning Experiences.”

“It was a humbling experience to connect and share educational opportunities with the street children,” she said of her time volunteering at Calcutta’s Loreto Day School Sealdah.

“My passion for social justice was very much heightened, (along with) the idea of responsible citizenship. When I got back from India, I wanted to run for student trustee and speak on behalf of the marginalized,” Rizzo, 18, told The Catholic Register at the recent Lighting the Way student conference in Niagara Falls.

What was most memorable from her trip was the teamwork she experienced with the other volunteers and students from different faiths, she said. This opened up discussions about faith, “what’s important to us and (we realized) how similar we really are,” she said.

“We may look different, but we truly understand that (we’re) all the same. We are all a person of God who’s made in the image and likeness of God.”

In her volunteer work at home, Rizzo is involved with the TCDSB’s Angel Foundation, a charitable organization that helps vulnerable students in Toronto Catholic schools through initiatives like student breakfast programs.

But she is going abroad again. In May, Rizzo will be in Kenya for three weeks with Free the Children as part of a team that will help build a school. The project also involves alternate income projects that employ more than 400 people making traditional jewellery and a honey-making project.

Being a student trustee, Rizzo said she has learned of the “importance of the student voice.”

Rizzo’s first involvement with student council began in Grade 9. She is co-chair of the Social Justice Council at her school and the TCDSB’s Catholic Student Leadership Impact Team.

She said students can put their faith in action by supporting social justice initiatives.

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