Karlene Flemming-Fortune is crowdsourcing online as one of the ways to fundraise for a social justice and WYD trip this July. Photo by Ruane Remy

Youth fund their way to World Youth Day

  • May 10, 2013

TORONTO - With World Youth Day just over two months away, pilgrims are scrambling to fundraise their way to Rio, Brazil, in July.

International student Karlene Flemming-Fortune, 27, has found multiple methods to pay for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The third-year Urban Planning and Design student is a long-time volunteer at Ryerson University’s Catholic Chaplaincy in Toronto, and it was through the chaplaincy she found the opportunity to go to WYD.

Ryerson’s Catholic Chaplaincy offered her $1,000 to go to WYD with Solidarity Experiences Abroad, a social justice program, through the diocese of St. Catharines.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of social justice workshops, based on the teachings of social justice by the Catholic Church while we’re there,” said Flemming- Fortune, adding that the group will be arriving in Lima, Peru, on July 13 where it will be helping to build a community centre. By her birthday on July 19, the group will be in Rio de Janeiro. World Youth Day runs from July 23 to 28.

Flemming-For tune will raise $1,000 between her family and herself, but must rely on donations to cover the remaining costs, about $1,600. So she’s going “door to door” with friends and has raised just under $300 towards that $1,600. Anyone can donate online through fundrazr. com by searching her full name.

To show the donors where their money is going, Flemming- Fortune is documenting her fundraising efforts and the social justice trip via video and plans on posting them on YouTube. Having never been to a WYD, she’ll also be documenting her preparation for the trip, which is “not just packing,” she said, “but how I might be preparing myself mentally, spiritually and emotionally.”

If people “decide to donate, they would be able to see what their donation’s going to,” she said. “I like to make a difference. It’s not just about me. A lot of people would like the opportunity to go and so many people can’t. So it’s trying to go on behalf of other people as well and share that experience with as many people as I can.”

For some pilgrims, however, they will have to chase their dreams of World Youth Day another year.

Our Lady of Guadalupe’s youth group in Toronto has been fundraising since last summer, said Maria Lopez, 23. Up until February, the 70-member group has been selling food — such as platano frito (fried plantain) and tamarindo (tamarind drink) — common in Central America and the Caribbean — to parishioners, many of whom hail from these parts of the world. They’ve also worked a church fair and put on family friendly performances, using their acting and musical talents.

“There’s a lot of support from the parish,” said Lopez, also crediting parish priests for allowing the group to execute their ideas. “They want to see the youth grow... The community is so focused on getting the youth to actually have an encounter with Jesus, so they are thrilled to help.”

Still, it wasn’t enough. So when the youth group realized it could not afford to send members to this year’s WYD, it applied the funds to decrease the cost for 11 members to visit Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico this month.

Lopez wishes she could still attend WYD in Rio, but “God does things for a reason,” she said.

“Everybody says that when they went to Spain (WYD 2011), it was an amazing experience and they could really feel the presence of the Holy Spirit... If you with the right reasons, it would be a life-changing experience.”

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