Young Catholics around New Zealand are making a difference by stepping into the shoes of the most vulnerable and taking on the Caritas Challenge.

An annual event aimed at raising awareness about social justice issues in the world, as well as raising funds for organiser Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, the Caritas Challenge encourages youth to undertake an activity for a 24hour period that gives them an insight into what people living with poverty
and injustice experience on a daily basis.

The nationwide event was launched on the weekend of March 31 — April 2. It runs for six weeks until May 14.

During this time, primary and secondary schools, Catholic youth groups and university students are holding their own “challenges”.

Based on four themes outlined by Caritas — Move It, Live It, Sweat It and Stop It — participants design their own “challenge” based on one or more of the themes, such as sleeping overnight in cardboard shelters as a Live It Challenge to experience what living without a home feels like.

Each year there is also a focus on a specific country or region in which Caritas is delivering development programmes, and this year the focus is on communities in the Pacific struggling with the impacts of climate change.

St Joseph’s School Feilding is taking on the Caritas Challenge for the first time and is tailored their event around climate change issues.

The whole school of 135 students took part in activities on March 31 and the senior class stayed overnight to complete the 24 hours through to Saturday morning, said Therese Petersen, DRS at St Joseph’s School.

She expressed the hope that the students would learn to appreciate  the very real challenges people just  like us are having to face due to the effects of climate change, and that all could do something to help make a difference.

The students’ “challenges” included a water-carrying activity to help them “gain an appreciation of water as one  of the most precious and life sustaining resources people have”; not using any devices or screens for the day to appreciate what it is like when there is no power or Internet; and trying to live for a day without plastic.

All funds raised during the Caritas Challenge in 2017 will go towards supporting the people of Kiribati, where Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is delivering programmes focused on health,  climate awareness and youth leadership, training for women, developing sustainable livelihoods, and agricultural training for youth.

Games and activities are also developed by Caritas to teach participants about living conditions in the Pacific, particularly in Kiribati.

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