Bella Bianco didn’t know if she would be able to make a difference when she started her senior volunteer service project at The Prout School, but by the end of her campaign she had changed the life of a stranger from halfway across the world.
Bianco, whose service project aimed to collect 2,500 pairs of shoes over the course of two months, has come to an end with incredible results.
The Prout School asks that its seniors put in some serious work, including the “CAS” program, which emphasizes “Creativity, Action and Service” in order to help others. After hearing a speech given by the founder of Action Kivu, which is dedicated to bringing “peace, healing, and educational and vocational opportunities to the victims of the ongoing conflict” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bianco began working with the group. The Congo is referred to as the “rape capital of the world”, where more than 200,000 women and children are survivors of sexual violence or rape.
As her own career goals involve helping children who have faced trauma, Bianco sought to help Action Kivu support the similar dreams of another young woman.
One of the unfortunately numerous victims of rape in the Congo, Brigette intends to become a lawyer so that she may represent victims of violence like herself. However, the costs of schooling, $7,000 a year, would prevent her dreams from coming true. Seeking to help Brigette towards her dream became Bianco’s CAS project.
In order to raise part of the funds needed to send Brigette to law school, Bianco asked for the community’s help in collecting 2,500 pairs of shoes which in turn would be exchanged for a check that would go towards Brigette’s tuition costs. The donated shoes will be given a monetary value that will be applied to Brigette’s tuition. Following that, the shoes will be sent to developing countries across the world for people who need them.
The task seemed impossible. Bianco had reached out to the Beacon in hopes that others would find her cause as important as she did, although she didn’t expect much. “Sometimes it seems I’m never going to collect any shoes,” she said towards the beginning of her campaign.
However, Bianco has not only reached her goal; she has exceeded it. Over the course of the short two months she had to collect donations, Bianco received 3,000 pairs of new and gently used shoes, 500 more than she had asked for. Along with the $1,000 that will be received in return for the shoes, she received numerous cash donations totaling $1,200.
Although the funds have not yet reached Brigette, according to Bianco she is doing well and is astonished by the aid she is receiving. Bianco is most thankful for the support she has accrued from the community at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, or Saint Greg’s as it is more affectionately known by the members of its community. The Bianco family has been with the church for over ten years, something Bianco is immensely proud of. She also said she received great assistance with her project from Prince Hall Masons in Providence.
“I was given the opportunity to do something important,” she said. Now, looking over what she has accomplished, she is grateful.
“To come out with more shoes than I even imagined we would be able to get…I feel so wonderful”