Students Mark World AIDS Day

Pupils across the diocese joined together in prayer to commemorate World AIDS Day last Friday at St George Catholic VA College in Southampton.  Students from St Edmund’s in Portsmouth, Bishop Challoner in Basingstoke, Oaklands Catholic secondary in Waterlooville and Christ the King College on the Isle of Wight gathered together for a really special Mass presided over by Mgr Vincent Harvey and Father PJ Smith.

The first reading was taken from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, reminding us that every part of the Body of Christ is needed and that no one is unimportant to God. The Gospel then focused on the parable of the Good Samaritan, someone who answered the call to love his neighbour as himself.

During the homily, pupils were invited to reflect on the readings and the meaning behind the red ribbons that are worn at this time; a visual expression of compassion for people living with and affected by HIV.

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Much has been done since the beginning of the epidemic; medical advances have extended life expectancy, improved quality of life and reduced the numbers of new infections – but much is still to be done about addressing the social issues such as discrimination and 9 million people who need treatment do not have access to it.

After Mass, we looked at the links between HIV and poverty – and the role world trade has to play in maintaining the gap between the rich and poor of our world.

Using the fantastic Christian Aid ‘Trading Game’, pupils were placed in small groups and tasked with making as much money as they could using only the raw materials they were given.  Players were then asked to sell these to the ‘banker’.  As the game progressed, groups became very quickly aware that some groups had more raw materials than others and some had the means to process those materials.

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Trade was fast and furious and there were many cries of frustration and outrage as the less economically powerful groups were forced to make unfair deals or give up more of their raw materials than they had wanted.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that some of the ‘rules’ were changed by the leaders– such as supplying more raw materials to some groups or changing the value of some of the goods (to reflect the real world parallel of plunging market prices due to the oversupply of a particular commodity).

Groups then fedback some of their feelings of helplessness at the debrief session, recognising the sentiments felt worldwide by many nations in the face of control by foreign companies or trading associations.

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At the end of the session, pupils were invited to reflect on what our faith tells us about our responsibility to one another and how this should influence the way we share the world’s resources.

The students then came up with their own ideas on how we can all make a difference by, for example, campaigning on these issues or by changing our own lifestyle choices and choosing to buy more Fairtrade products.

A great day and a great session all round!  Our thanks go to Mgr Vincent Harvey and Father PJ Smith for presiding over the Mass, all the singers and musicians (who were also fantastic) and our friend Ruth Cunio (St George School Chaplain) for organising the whole day.  We would also like to thank all the visiting pupils and staff for all their support and enthusiasm throughout the day and our very own fabulous Education Volunteers who ran the game so well including Kate O’Shea, Donald Henderson, Karen Tan and Nick Wong (from the University of Southampton Catholic Society).

Thank you all!

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