St. Catherine staff collect donations for mission




For many American children, access to such things such as crayons, paper and scissors are as readily available as food and water. But for children in Mexico, these types of items are difficult to come by.

Staff members at St. Catherine Hospital are working to provide those types of supplies to a mission in Mexico.

"In the U.S., we take for granted a lot of things that children have access to in their homes — they're going to have things like Legos. A lot of kids (in Mexico) don't have any of those kinds of things, so they come to school lacking a lot of the motor skills that kids in the states would have developed at home. So the kinds of things that we ask for help with are really going to be beneficial to kids in developing those sorts of fine motor skills and all of those things we take for granted (in the U.S.)," said Sister Rene Weeks, director of a mission called Centro Santa Catalina, located in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The mission serves poor women and their families with spiritual, educational and economic empowerment by offering programs such as kindergarten, tutoring for kids in first through sixth grades, as well as through gardening and sewing cooperatives that teach women a trade.

"We try to find a market for them in the U.S., and that's basically how they're earning money to support their families," Weeks said.

St. Catherine Hospital occupational therapy staff members, Occupational Therapist Sister Mary Vuong, Rehabilitation Services Program Director Pam Perry, and Occupational Therapy Assistant Kim Partlow recently discussed ways to observe Occupational Therapy Month, and as they were already collecting school supplies, they decided they would donate them to Weeks' center.

"At first glance, people may wonder how occupational therapy and school supplies go together. Working with crayons, bottles of glue, scissors and other items can help with dexterity, coordination and strength," Perry said.

Weeks said she is grateful to Perry, Sister Mary and others at St. Catherine Hospital for organizing the project.

"These school supplies are important because we have both a kindergarten and tutoring program for children in primary school," Weeks said. "It is a huge support to our efforts here in Mexico to know that people in Kansas are thinking of us and willing to help make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate."

Vuong said the center is located in an impoverished part of Mexico.

"We're with the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and so that's part of our mission is to help the poor and the marginalized," Vuong said. "This may be offering a little bit of hope for them. That's what we're hoping for. I'm excited, and I hope we get a lot of donations."

Donations are being accepted until the middle of May. Gardening and sewing items also are being accepted for the two cooperative programs.

"They also asked for buttons, thread and any type of cotton fabrics that they can use," Perry said.

While donations of supplies are welcome, Perry said gift certificates are better.

"Honestly, it's easier to mail a gift card than it is the other stuff. People can get them from Walmart or Target because Sister Weeks can get it in El Paso, Texas, and then just take it over the border with her," she said.

Those who donate to the supply drive at St. Catherine will earn a chance to win handmade items from the center's seamstresses. These include scarves, shawls and purses. The drive also is taking place at St. Catherine's sister hospital, St. Rose in Great Bend.

"We'll draw for three winners here and three in Great Bend, so any time people bring something in, they'll get a ticket and we'll pull from those," Perry said. "We believe our Occupational Therapy Month's theme of 'Developing Skills, Building Lives,' fits in very well with the center's efforts. This theme describes, to a 'T', what the center is all about. We encourage the community to support this worthy cause." For more information or to donate, contact St. Catherine Rehabilitation Services, located on the first floor of the hospital, by calling 272-2106.

For more information about the mission, visit its website at or Facebook page, Mexican Women's Cooperative Of Hope.

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