||Children at a day care center in Lebanon got new boots thanks to a fund-raising effort led by the St. Vincent de Paul Youth Service Council in Madison. (Contributed photo)
MADISON -- The Madison Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) Youth Service Council (YSC) recently sent more than $1,000 to St. Vincent de Paul-Lebanon to assist the poor, unemployed, and refugees there.
While attending a national St. Vincent de Paul meeting in Providence, R.I., last fall, YSC members Claire Finucane and DC Morris heard Julien Spiewak, the society's international secretary general, outline the struggles the country of Lebanon currently faces and how the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is trying to help.
Challenges in Lebanon
The SVdP has been active in Lebanon since 1860 but has recently faced greater challenges than usual.
More than a million Syrian refugees have sought refuge in Lebanon -- comprising approximately 20 percent of the country's current population. The influx of people has led to a scarcity of jobs and increased unemployment.
When Claire and DC returned to Madison and shared with other Youth Service Council members about the need in Lebanon and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's efforts there, the group decided to do something to bolster SVdP-Lebanon's limited resources.
Love 2 Lebanon effort
"What inspired me to help St. Vincent de Paul in Lebanon was hearing about the crisis at the SVdP National Assembly in Rhode Island. Our group focuses a lot on local issues and I thought it would be great to be able to help others in need in different countries as well," wrote Claire Finucane, current president of the YSC.
Claire set up the order for 1,000 red rubber bracelets which said "Love 2 Lebanon" and "St. Vincent de Paul" on them. Members planned multiple ways in which they would promote the sale of the bracelets: setting up a table at Edgewood High School in Madison during lunch, selling them to friends and family, sharing the opportunity with peers in their parish youth ministries, and featuring them at this year's Frassati Fest. The bracelets sold for $2 each, matching the Love 2 Lebanon theme.
Gayle Westfahl, the group's advisor, was in direct contact with the president of SVdP-Lebanon, Ella Bitar, via email. Ms. Bitar forwarded descriptions of SVdP Lebanon's work as well as the need for new boots for children at an SVdP day care and new equipment for a medical clinic. The YSC was able to see real photos of both the day care and clinic run by the society.
Rachael Schiedermayer, another YSC member, shared, "When I heard about the children in Lebanon who had no shoes or very ratty shoes, I wanted to help in every way I could."
While several hundred bracelets remain, the efforts of the SVdP Youth Service Council garnered a total of $1,075.78 that has been sent to SVdP- Lebanon.
Charity encircling the world
The YSC's efforts prove that the vision of Blessed Frederic Ozanam (founder of SVdP) for the society can effectively be seen today: a network of charity encircling the world.
"Having the opportunity to help another SVdP in the world was so inspiring . . . It is a good feeling that our small group in Madison can make a difference across the world," Claire reflected.
Join the Youth Service Council
Are you a high school student who would like to join the 2016 to 2017 Madison SVdP Youth Service Council? Applications and position descriptions are available by contacting Gayle Westfahl at
or at the following link: www.tinyurl.com/app2016svdpysc Applications are due Friday, April 22.