St. Charles Borromeo closes education gap through mission work

ORLANDO | “Over 30 years, the needs have changed. Now we’re kind of putting those last pieces in place to move forward,” said Nathan Nadeau, principal for St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Orlando. He speaks of the mission work done in the Sister Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana, led by the Diocese of Orlando Mission Office. The administrator made his first trip to the Dominican Republic in July and assisted in getting two SMARTBoards™ for schools in Los Frios, through the goodwill of a donor and tithing a portion of the school’s fundraising.

Over the years, the school has helped the mission office’s endeavors. Two years ago they raised money for a chapel in Los Frios. In July, Nadeau went to the small island town in the mountains to assist on putting awnings over walkways connecting four buildings in Nuestra Señora de Alta Gracia Elementary School with the help of at least 25 parents. It was then that he asked mission director Sister Bernadette “Bernie” McKay what the schools needed the most. Her answer was quick and to the point: SMARTBoards™ (touchscreen boards with computer and internet interfacing).

The principal came home and immediately got to work. The two boards were shipped in early October, headed for a middle school and an elementary school. “They are the same ones we have here at the school… We sent cameras with them so we could possibly do some video chatting with our Spanish class,” he said. Nadeau hopes the teaching mission in November will set them up.

“When you bring in a SMARTBoard™, with Internet access, the students have access to first class instruction from anywhere in the world. They have access to digital labs, virtual labs, virtual education like Khan Academy, and to everything our students have here. Technology closes the gap faster than anything else. It’s the great divide,” explained Nadeau. “They can interact with kids throughout the world. When we get it up and running we should be able to do daily, weekly, or monthly sessions. They can have an instructor from somewhere else in the world teach a lesson.”

For Nadeau, the experience of working with families in the mission field was like none other. “It is a corner of one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in my life. And the people there weren’t asking us for a handout or to change their circumstances. All they’re asking for is a chance for their children.” He added, “The families down there, to me, were no different than any other parent that I’ve ever met. All they want is a better life for their kids—just like you and me. We want the best opportunities for our kids to grow up and be happy, healthy and holy… They want the opportunity for their kids to get a good education and they want their kids to be able to do anything in the world.”

To contribute to the mission work in the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana, visit www.cfocf.org/missionoffice/give.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic October 23, 2019