by PETER OWENS
St John’s Catholic Primary School in Ranfurly, Central Otago is small. It has a roll of
62 students from the town of Ranfurly and the surrounding Maniatoto Region. Ranfurly
is a farming service town these days, but has a colourful past as one of the key areas in
the 19th century Otago gold rushes. Geraldine Duncan teaches 24 young people in years 6, 7 and 8 at the school and they all belong to the school’s branch of the Young Vinnies, the youth branch of the Society of St Vincent de Paul. Recently, the young people in the school branch did something that has been applauded throughput the South and which has focused local attention on the school.

The members of the branch all made cards to be distributed to farmers affected by the dreaded mycoplasma bovis disease that is having a serious impact on the New Zealand dairy industry, including in the South. The Young Vinnies at St John’s School then sent the cards to Gavan Herlihy of Wanaka, who is chairman of the Otago Rural Support Trust and who also has a close association with the school, for distribution to farmers and their families whose lives are affected by the animal disease.

Mr Herlihy told NZ Catholic that he was quite overcome with the cards and congratulated the students on what he referred to as a “caring gesture”. He said the outbreak has
caused a very stressful time for the farmers impacted by the disease and their families.

Herlihy said the cards were deeply appreciated by the recipients who treasured them.

According to Mr Herlihy, the mycoplasma bovis outbreak has hit the southern rural community and that “we now have a situation when the rural people of the South must support one another”.

He said the generous gesture of the Young Vinnies at St John’s is a “shining example” of that support.

In sending the cards to Mr Herlihy to distribute, the St John’s Young Vinnies told him their organisation was there to help
people in need.

The supporting letter said the focus of the branch for 2018 is on helping and comforting the community at large. They
had decided to do this through a variety of projects.

According to Ms Duncan, the other projects undertaken by the local Young Vinnies include baking for the elderly and visiting residents who live by themselves. She said
the young people have a strong sense of “practical charity” and of their duty as Catholics and members of the Young Vinnies.

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