Canadian Hearts and Hands a WYD 2002 legacy

By  Innocent Madawo, Catholic Register Special
  • November 10, 2006
TORONTO - Be the "Salt of the Earth" and the "Light of the World" are two phrases Pope John Paul II uttered during World Youth Day celebrations here in 2002.

The phrases induced sustained applause from the thousands of youths who attended the celebrations and millions watching all over the world, but when the applause died down, many moved on with the echo of the pronouncement.

Chahira Tadros of Toronto, however, took the late pontiff's words to heart. Tadros, a devout Catholic and youth organizer for the celebration, was touched by the passion in the Holy Father's words. She felt like he was talking directly to her and like a soldier called to duty, she sprung into action.

Without prior preparation or resources, Tadros began approaching youths right there to answer the pope's call to be the "Salt of the Earth" and the "Light of the World." How? some might have asked, and she had a ready answer. Let us give ourselves in service for "our brothers and sisters in need around the world."

That saw the formation of Canadian Hearts and Hands, a volunteer organization "dedicated to enhancing the physical, intellectual and spiritual well-being of God's people around the world, through the long-term development and educational plans implemented by its missionaries."

With a few other lay Catholics and clergy, including Fr. Makarios Isaac of the Toronto archdiocese, Tadros, a teacher, started soliciting volunteers and funds to go to Third World countries to assist needy communities.

Funds were raised through donations from charitable organizations and through community ventures such as selling rosaries and car washes.

"The response was excellent from the youth as well as adults," said Tadros.

The first beneficiaries of the new organization's benevolence in 2003 were more than 120 youths in a village in Piedras Negras, Mexico.

The Canadian youths went to Piedras Negras loaded with computers, they built a community centre and installed the computers and other materials, all donated. The project had to be extended into 2004, when it was finally completed.

By 2005, Canadian Hearts and Hands' reputation had spread among the charitable organizations and individuals in Canada bringing more donations and volunteers. That same year, the focus of the organization also shifted to Africa. Tadros and her troop headed for Nzaikoni, Kenya, where they worked with a local youth group to upgrade a community centre and train local women in "livelihood programs."

Word of their presence and their good work spread in Kenya.

"We were invited then to go to Machaikos where we upgraded a technical institution for youth and young adults. We supplied all the machinery for sewing, welding, carpentry and mechanical work," said Tadros. "We upgraded the institution's furniture, school supplies, sports equipment and taught welding, math, catechism and Catholic morality."

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace was also handy to provide funding and equipment to drill a borehole to provide clean water to the Machaikos Institute and the neighbouring Kathome village where people had been using a swamp for their water needs. 

The group is also sponsoring school needs for poor children working on the streets of Nairobi. The organization will continue to help street children in Nairobi in 2007 before it moves to Egypt where work has already been lined up to assist an orphanage for mentally challenged children.

(Madawo is a freelance writer in Toronto.)

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