By NADIA MARIA SMITH
CS&T Staff Writer
NEWTOWN SQUARE – Allie Zito was excited to return to school as a seventh grader last week, in part because she heard some news from the people of Banda Ache, Indonesia, one of the areas hardest hit in the 2006 tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia.
While a third grader at St. Anastasia School in Newtown Square, Allie raised more than $5,000 in donations for Catholic Relief Services’ relief work there. Almost four years later, the people of Banda Ache want to give their thanks to Allie for all she did to help them rebuild their lives.
They sent a banner and a painting of gratitude with a CRS representative that was given to Allie in a special presentation after the school Mass on Monday, Sept. 8 at St. Anastasia Church.
“My experience has taught me that anyone can do anything and you can never help too much. You can never give too much of yourself because people always need help after such a tragedy,” Allie said. “And I suggest for any other people to take their gifts from God and use them for good toward others.”
Allie remembers the morning she walked into school and her teacher sat her down along with the rest of her class and said, “Something terrible has happened across the world but it is affecting all of us right now.” Then she told the students about the tsunami.
“I thought, ‘I have everything and these people have nothing,’ ” Allie recalled.
Allie wanted to do something to reach out to so many suffering people in addition to praying for them, she said.
That’s when it hit her.
Every year her family makes special beaded pens as end-of-the-year teacher gifts, and while working on the project, Allie asked, “Why don’t we just make these pens and sell them for donations?
“We’ll donate everything that we get to these people so that they can build houses, get shelter somehow, get back anything they lost that can be given back and rebuild these people’s lives. People love these pens and they are practical,” she added.
Her parents, Domenico and Kathy, and two brothers, Michael and Matthew, set out to help Allie make and sell pens that brought in donations of more than $5,000.
“There were at least 500 children at the school at the time and even the lunch people decided to buy pens or make a donation,” Allie recalled. She sold them after Mass and during bake sales organized by her classmates to raise money for the tsunami victims, she added.
She trusted CRS with the donation because “we knew they would give the money straight to … help these people,” she said.
Allie was even featured in the CRS “Thank You” video, which was sent to every parish in the United States since the generosity from Catholics around the country was unprecedented, according to CRS.
The people of Banda Ache also saw the video and came to know how Allie made a tangible difference in their lives and decided to do something to thank her.
Allie credits her Catholic faith for “really strengthening my desire to give back.”
“My parents are very supportive of the faith and it has really strengthened me. Now I participate so much in Mass that I hardly sit with everyone else. I cantor and I serve. I really enjoy going to church now. As a third grader nobody really understands what is going on in Mass, but as I got older it really helped me.”
In addition to playing piano and harp and acting in school plays, Allie is a member of the school’s service corps and looks forward to other ways she can help those in need locally, she said.
CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at email@example.com or (215) 965-4614.