Calvary Christian School in Pacific Palisades Celebrates Community Service Day (Video)

By Sue Pascoe
Editor

One of the most uplifting days in Pacific Palisades is Calvary Christian School’s Community Service Day. The tempo is decidedly upbeat and the kids are truly excited to see video highlights of last year’s community service projects.

“Celebrating the Joy of Serving Others” was held on October 13 in the sanctuary. After the Boy Scouts led the Pledge of Allegiance and an all-boys choir sang (posted on the Palisades News Facebook page), Head of School Vince Downey reminded everyone that the theme of this year’s outreach program is “Love.”

Calvary Pastor Ramin Razavi, who introduced the keynote speaker, explained that the children at Calvary were agents of love and that love reaches its highest point in compassion.

Even the youngest students were attentive to the speaker.

“Compassion says I’m not going to stand back and watch—I’m going to jump in and help,” Razavi said.

Then, Samuel Polanco, who was helped as a child by Compassion International, spoke. Polanco grew up in the Dominican Republic and his father died when he was five. “We had to fight a ‘monster,’” Polanco said.

“The monster of poverty.”

He said he asked some kids what it meant to be poor and one responded, “When you don’t own an iPad.”

Polanco explained how his family had to move into an uncle’s home, and for them, poor meant “we didn’t know if we would have breakfast in the morning.”

His mother, who had no formal education, made a small amount of money from washing clothes by hand. With that she bought corn and then made cornbread.

“At five, I was on the streets selling cornbread,” Polanco said. “Kids would make fun of me and call me ‘cornbread seller.’”

He said that when they had food for breakfast, it was cornbread, and for lunch it was cornbread, and for dinner, they had corn soup.

Samuel Polanco spoke to Calvary students.

“But one day, we didn’t have anything,” said Polanco, who tried praying. A woman from the church came by and gave the family two eggs and some plantains. But his mom started dividing up among everyone, including neighbors. “I went crazy and I asked her, “Why are we sharing with them?”

She told him it was better to give than receive, and today he realizes, “It’s easy to share when you have abundance.”

He asked the age-old question, “If God always provides, they why are there so many with no food and living in poverty?” The answer? “God provides, but we are not always willing to share.”

Polanco spoke about having only one pair of battered shoes and when it rained, his feet were wet. He told his mom he needed new shoes, but there was no money.

Someone had given the family a pair of pink shoes, but he didn’t want to wear them, thinking the “cornbread seller” would be teased even more. He finally took a pen and colored them blue.

“The worst thing about poverty was not the lack of food or shoes,” Polanco said, but the resulting lack of self-confidence. “Poverty took away my faith, it told me I wasn’t worth anything.”

“But God was there,” he said. “He used a person to show me love, to ‘battle’ the monster. Terry from Canada [through Compassion International] chose me and wrote letters to me.

“What? A cornbread seller could be something?” he asked. “Yes.”

Polanco is now a recording engineer. His brother, who was also sponsored, is a computer engineer and his sister is a dentist “because she was sponsored by a dentist.”

He told the students, “Don’t sponsor a child because you feel sorry or pity, but sponsor a child with love.”

Compassion International, founded in 1952, is a child advocacy ministry dedicated to helping 1.9-million children worldwide. An individual, a family or a class can sponsor a child for $38 a month, and that child receives food, clothes and an education.

This year, school-wide, students will collaborate with Compassion International and Operation Gratitude.

The youngest students will work with Operation Christmas Child, packing shoe boxes of special gifts for the needy. First grade will work with the YMCA Ketchum Downtown preschool and second grade will work with the Children’s Bureau.

Third grade will focus on working with the elderly, and fourth grade will work with local food banks. Fifth grade will help children with special needs, while sixth graders will learn about education equality by visiting and helping at St. Anne’s School.

Seventh grade will visit the Union Rescue Mission and Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission and eighth grade will work at the Veterans Administration.

The middle school classes also collaborate with the Casa Hogar Sion Orphanage in Mexico and have done since the inception of the community service program in 2006.

For more information on Compassion International, visit https://www.compassion.com

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