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Heelan alum visits Rwanda

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

Virtues a Bishop Heelan High School graduate learned while attending Catholic school in Sioux City influenced him to help others.

Sam Ahlers, a 2011 Heelan grad, recently participated in a service trip to Rwanda. He went with the group, Inana Kids, which sponsors school education for orphan children. A cousin of Ahlers is one of the founders of this Christian organization.

“The group was started to sponsor the kids so they could go to school – to bond with the kids and give them hope for the future,” said Ahlers, a parishioner at St. Patrick Church in Jackson, Neb.

The main purpose of the trip was to establish relationships with the sponsor children and let them know that someone does care about them.

“Six of the days we went to an orphanage in an area where there is a lot of poverty,” he said. “A lot of the group members that went sponsor kids. We brought them a lot of school supplies and other things they needed that they wouldn’t be able to get on their own.”

Presently a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, his parents, Lori and Jeff Ahlers of South Sioux City, Neb., sponsor a child. He developed a friendship with the boy his parents sponsor.

“At first it was definitely heartbreaking to see everything the kids have to go through,” he said. “It really put it into perspective how lucky we are here with everything we have. But to see how happy they are even though they have nothing, it changes it. They still love God and praise him for all they have been given. They are alive and they are happy.”

Ahlers said the main reason he wanted to participate in the trip was to reinforce to his parents’ sponsor child that someone does care about him and someone will be there for him. He got the bug to go on the trip after his cousin had explained to Ahlers what they would be doing and he realized it could be a life-changing experience.

During the visit, he was able to play soccer and basketball with the children. He noted his parents’ sponsor child loved math, so they would work on math problems together.

“God calls us to be selfless and to use our resources to help others rather than just ourselves,” said Ahlers. “I felt it was something God was calling me to do.”

As a student at Heelan, he had participated in the Mission Honduras trip. That gave him a taste for mission work. He credited Father Jerry Cosgrove, director of faith formation at Heelan, for instilling the value of helping others.

“Since I have come back from that trip, I have always wanted to do more. Besides this trip to Rwanda, I have done a lot more to help out locally where I can,” Ahlers said. “I am currently looking into the Peace Corps and this trip had a big impact on that.”


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